Hockey Players

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Hockey Players

Men:

India: A third-string side having just three players who have had the privilege of having been an India international including the vastly experienced Gurbaj Singh, the Indian men's hockey team is obviously keen to provide a chance of some exposure to the juniors than anything else. Most of the players selected are from the core group of juniors who failed to find a buyer at the Hockey India League auctions last year. The biggest advantage for these players would be facing off against Pakistan and get some crucial international exposure in a year when India would be hosting the junior World Cup. A good performance can help these youngsters push their case for the major competition. Other than that, the only one who has anything at stake here would be Gurbaj, making one last-ditch attempt to get back into the scheme of things for the Rio Olympics.

Key players:

Gurbaj Singh: Undoubtedly the biggest name in the Indian side, the experienced midfielder missed out on the HIL after being banned for misbehaviour last year. He knows it would be a futile exercise but is also aware that a good performance here would be his last chance to return to the national side, however bleak it may be.

Mandeep Antil: The captain, Mandeep has been a regular on the domestic circuit for more than a decade and, along with Gurbaj and vice-captain Ajitesh Roy, the only other player to represent India. Mandeep has been strictly average in his few outings at the international level even though the speedy forward has been a key member of his side ONGC in the domestic tournaments. This could be the occasion for him to make further progress in his international career.

Ajitesh Roy: At the junior level, Roy was often considered to be a natural for the national side but injuries and the presence of other big names meant he kept biding his time and was soon relegated to the domestic circuit, where he continues to garner Man of the Match awards with regularity. This tournament would be an avenue to showcase his speed and skills to dodge past the best, despite being past his prime.

Pradhan Somanna: Another potential India player who fell by the wayside, unable to match up to the rigours of international hockey. Somanna was part of the group that included current India stars SK Uthappa and Nikkin Thimmaiah but was unable to match up in terms of fitness. The SAG would, however, not test him much physically, but he can be expected to make an effort.

Ajit Kumar Pandey: Part of the present junior side and a talented forward, Pandey was instrumental in the Indian junior men's impressive run of success in 2015. He remains part of the core group for the junior World Cup and would be hoping to further boost his chances in the SAG. A good outing against Pakistan would be a bonus.

Pakistan: With no team willing to travel to Pakistan and the team itself failing to qualify for the Olympics, Pakistan hockey has been in international sporting wilderness since the 2014 Champions Trophy in India. As a result, the Pakistan federation has decided to name an almost full-strength squad for the SAG in an attempt to give some international exposure to its players. An India-Pakistan final is all but assured in the five-team event and at stake for Pakistan would be defending its title from the previous edition.

Bangladesh: Placed 29th in the world, it is the third highest ranked side in the SAG and the only one, barring India and Pakistan, that has some kind of domestic infrastructure and competition at home. At one point, it even challenged India at minor tournaments under coach Gerhard Rach, who was with India more than a decade back. But with few players, fewer competitions and next-to-none exposure, Bangladesh is expected to put its best foot forward against the only decent opposition it gets.

Sri Lanka: Ranked 42 in the world, the Sri Lankan team would be hoping, like Bangladesh, to gather precious experience from the event.

Afghanistan: A side that isn't even part of the FIH yet and doesn't figure on the world table, Afghanistan has been brought in simply to make up the numbers. Completely unknown to the hockey world – as much as the game would be to the public back home – it would be interesting to see what the Afghans bring to the table.

Women:

India: The women's event itself was undecided till the last moment. With just three entries, according to international rules, the competition wouldn't qualify as officially-recognised. However, the interest in the SAG means India would be fielding a mixed bunch of players – some seniors including captain Ritu Rani and defender Deepika Thakur along with a handful from the junior ranks. Having qualified for Rio, the Indian women's team is desperate for international exposure before the big assignment and the federation has decided that anything would be better than nothing for the girls. However, playing against Sri Lanka and Nepal is not likely to help the Indian women's cause.

Sri Lanka: Ranked 45th, the Sri Lankan girls are more a group of school students who happen to play the sport rather than having been engaged in serious hockey competition.

Nepal: A bunch of inexperienced players brought together specifically for this event and at the request of the Indian authorities, Nepal women, like Afghanistan among the men, don't find a spot in the rankings.