Sardar Singh dropped from India's Hockey World League Final squad

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Former captain Sardar Singh has been dropped from the Indian team for the Hockey World League Final, which begins on December 1 in Bhubaneswar.

Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who had injured his knee during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in May, has also not recovered sufficiently enough to be named in the 18-member squad for the eight-team tournament. This will mean Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera will continue in goal, with coach Sjoerd Marijne having indicated earlier that they would alternate matches and halves between games in the course of the tournament as goalkeepers.

Experienced defenders Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra, midfielder Kothajit Singh and striker Mandeep Singh also return, while Surender Kumar, Satbir Singh and Ramandeep Singh are the other members of the Asia Cup-winning Indian team who have also not been picked.

Sardar, who has played close to 300 caps for India, had been India's midfield bulwark for more than a decade since his debut in 2006. After the 2016 Rio Olympics, though, he was not picked as regularly as he had been in the past, with former coach Roelant Oltmans picking him as an out-and-out centre forward in some matches.

Marijne, whose first assignment with the men's team was the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, had opted to play Sardar in central defence.

"The coach decided to play Sardar in defence because he is an experienced player and he has the ability to play long passes. This is the plus point, that we can play the ball back when needed, knowing that we have a leader in the backline. He gets a good view of the game and calls well from there," skipper Manpreet Singh had said recently about the decision to field Sardar in defence in Dhaka.

With a busy 2018, where India will be in action in the hockey tournaments at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, and host the men's World Cup late in 2018 in Bhubaneswar, teams are looking at the World League Final as a chance to put their best teams in place for next year. With Sardar dropped from this tournament, it appears difficult to see him figuring in India's plans in the near future.