Rupinder axed as India prioritise fitness over experience for Hockey World Cup

Hockey India

If Rupinder Pal Singh was playing the 2018 World Cup, he would have likely closed in on his 200th international cap. As it turns out, the drag flicker will be staying put on 192.

Rupinder, who would have been the third most experienced member of the Indian team heading to Bhubaneswar at the end of the month, was the biggest omission in the Indian squad that was named on Thursday.

Rupinder is not the only big name who will be absent at the World cup. Strikers SV Sunil, who has 236 caps, and Ramandeep Singh too have not made the cut. All three players have been let go owing to injury concerns. While Sunil was dealing with a ligament injury, Rupinder was seen as someone who might have picked up an injury over the course of the tournament.

"We have gone by recent form and fitness. We haven't picked the squad based on the number of caps. The players who were picked had the better form and fitness compared to those who were not selected," coach Harendra Singh explained.

Harendra admitted the loss of two of the most experienced players in the side was a challenge but insisted it was one his side was prepared for.

"Of course experience also plays a role but you can't say that if we don't have one player, we won't have any player who we can put in the team. We have a pool of 34 players and they are all have the ability to make the team."

The loss of Rupinder, though, might be considered a relatively serious blow considering the 28-year-old had been a key cog in the Indian defence while also scoring heavily with his drag flicks. Yet, Harendra said Rupinder's absence must not be considered a gap in the defence.

"You can't say that Rupinder was replaced by Birendra (Lakra). You can't have one player only playing one position and that no one else could be able to fill that spot," Harendra said.

"When there are players who get out of the field, you need someone to be able to take his position. Additionally if you have two players who play the same position and they both play in the same field. With the exception of my two goalkeepers, I need all my players to do everything at any given point of time."

As such, Harendra considers the side, led by Manpreet Singh, the best India could field at the World cup.

"There are 16 teams who have the ability to make the final and India is also one of those teams. This is an Indian team that can surprise a lot of teams. I've told my players, you have the opportunity to create history and you have the opportunity to do it in front of your own crowds."