Prabodh Tirkey retained as captain, Diwakar Ram to make debut

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New Delhi, Feb 19 (UNI) Prabodh Tirkey was retained captain of the 18-member Indian Hockey team which also includes debutant drag-flicker Diwakar Ram for the Olympic qualifiers in Chile next month.

There were not many surprises in the side as performers with proven track record were given preference keeping in mind the necessity to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Diwakar Ram was rewarded with a berth in the squad for his consistent showing in junior tournaments.

Striker Ajitesh Rai is the other youngster who has got into the squad on the strength of his good showing in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) and various international assignments at the junior level, according to IHF sources.

Laying stress on penalty corner conversion, two drag-flickers have been drafted into the side.

In the absence of Sandeep Singh, who opted out of the preparatory camp on health grounds, V R Raghunath was the automatic choice.

Diwakar snatched the other spot with his ability to rattle experienced goalkeepers in addition to his excellent defensive skills.

Old warhorse Dilip Tirkey and his understudy William Xalxo will be in charge of the defence.

The experienced duo of Bimal Lakra and Ignace Tirkey will be the main playmakers and the skillful quartet of captain Prabodh Tirkey, Sardara Singh, Vikram Kanth and Gurbaj Singh will man the midfield.

The onus of the attack will be on the lethal combination of Rajpal, highest goal-scorer in Asia Cup Prabhjot Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Shivendra Singh with young blood Bharat Chikara and Ajitesh providing the back-up.

As Adrian D'Souza is not fully fit, Bharat Chetri and Baljit Singh, who coincidentally were rival goalkeepers in the PHL finals this year, have been picked for guarding the Indian post.

The Squad: Goal Keepers: Bharat Chetri and Baljit Singh, Defenders : Dilip Tirkey, William Xalxo, V R Raghunath and Diwakar Ram Halves : Bimal Lakra, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Sardara Singh, Vikram Kanth and Gurbaj Singh.

Forwards : Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh, Bharat Chikara and Ajitesh Rai UNI HSB RKM RS2018

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