New Delhi: Hockey India (HI) dropped captain Bharat Chetri and three other seniors from the group of probables for the upcoming tournaments — Lanco International Super Series in Perth, Champions Trophy in Melbourne and the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha — on Monday.
On Monday, selection committee, comprising Balbir Singh, BP Govinda, Thoiba Singh, government observer Harbinder Singh and coach Michael Nobbs, decided to prune down the list to 33 players from 48 after the three-day selection trials concluded at the SAI Centre in Patiala on Sunday.
Apart from Chetri, who had led the team at the London Olympics, veteran midfielder Ignace Tirkey, strikers Tushar Khandekar and Swaranjit Singh have also been axed.
According to sources, a few other seniors might also face the axe when the final squad of 18 players would be announced. The exclusion of Kalimgpong-born Chetri was particularly shocking, as he was regarded the favourite of the team management, including Nobbs.
Asked the rationale behind dropping Chetri, one of the selectors said efforts were on to build a team for the 2014 Asian Games and the 2016 Olympics. “There is no point in persisting with players, who failed to deliver in the recent past,” he said.
In the Olympics, India lost six matches in a row. The disaster prompted Nobbs to say that some senior players should no more play for the national team. There were also reports of sharp division among the players with few of them accusing the coach of trying to save his own job.
Chetri, however, refused to accept that he was dropped from the team. “There is no question of me getting dropped,” he told The Telegraph. “This list of probables has been prepared to give chance to some of the upcoming players,” he said.
“The coach explained to me that he wanted to see how the youngsters perform at the international level. He has advised me to keep training hardů I am not disappointed.”