Sreejesh’s appointment comes as a surprise as Sardar Singh, who has been the Indian captain over the past few years, is in the squad. Sardar was the skipper in the 2012 London Olympics too.
Sreejesh led India to a historic silver medal at the recently-held Champions Trophy, in which Sardar did not play. He played a stellar role in leading India to their best finish in the 38-year-history of the tournament.
The team played a brilliant final where they held eventual champions Australia to a goalless draw in the regulation time before losing in a controversial shoot-out.
“Though I am the captain, there will be rotational captaincy. It has worked for the team in Champions Trophy. There will be three or four captains,” Sreejesh told NDTV. The 28-year-old from Tamil Nadu has played 156 international matches so far.
“It is not a single man’s responsibility. I will have four more vice-captains with me who will lead the team on the field. Hockey is a team game, so we have to play like a team.”
Sardar’s bad times
Of late, Sardar has been embroiled in off-field controversies. Recently, he was accused of rape by a British hockey player. His performance has dipped on the field too, as he is no longer as sharp a midfielder as he used to be.
Playmaker SV Sunil has been named vice-captain of the team.
India coach Roelant Oltmans said rotating captaincy will increase the responsibility of the players.
“I have been in India for three and a half years now. What I have observed is a hierarchic structure in this country. When Sardar (Singh) has been the only captain for a long time, others did not take responsibility,” he said.
“In the team, I need players who take responsibility during the game. By changing the captaincy on the field, there will be far more accountability. Sardar is one of them (the captains), there is no doubt about that.”
Oltmans added India’s first aim was to progress from the group stages. “Our target is to first reach the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics. From there we shall take each game at a time,” he said.
India finished last among 12 teams at the 2012 London Olympics. The five-time gold medal winners were the first team to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics as they beat Pakistan in the 2014 Asian Games final, where Sreejesh helped India win in the penalty shoot-out.
Sushila’s moment of reckoning
Sushila was appointed the Indian women’s hockey team after Ritu Rani was dropped by the selectors due to poor form and attitude problems.
Indian women’s team qualified for the first time in Olympics after stellar show at the Hockey World League Semifinals in 2015. Their maiden and till now only appearance in the Olympics was in the 1980 Moscow edition, but there was no qualification process back then.
“I have been a captain at the junior level and have got a lot of support. I am getting a lot of support here as well. So I think I won’t have any problems,” Sushila said.
Indian Men’s Squad: Harmanpreet Singh (Defender), Rupinder Pal Singh (Defender), Kothajit Singh Khadangbam (Defender), Surender Kumar (Defender), Manpreet Singh (Midfielder), Sardar Singh (Midfielder), V.R Raghunath (Defender), S.K Uthappa (Midfielder), P.R Sreejesh (Captain, Goalkeeper), Danish Mujtaba (Midfielder), Devindar Walmiki (Midfielder), S.V Sunil (Vice-Captain, Forward), Akashdeep Singh (Forward), Chinglensana Singh (Midfielder), Ramandeep Singh (Forward), Nikkin Thimmaiah (Forward)
Men’s Reserves: Pardeep Mor (Midfielder), Vikas Dahiya (Goalkeeper)
India Women’s Squad: Navjot Kaur (Midfielder), Deep Grace Ekka (Defender), Monika (Midfielder), Nikki Pradhan (Midfielder), Anuradha Devi Thokchom (Forward), Savita (Goalkeeper), Poonam Rani (Forward), Vandana Katariya (Forward), Deepika (Vice-Captain, Defender), Namita Toppo (Defender), Renuka Yadav (Midfielder), Sunita Lakra (Defender), Sushila Chanu (Captain, Defender), Rani (Forward), Preeti Dubey (Forward), Lilima Minz (Midfielder)
Women’s Reserves: Hnialum Lal Ruat Feli (Defender), (Rajani Etimmarpu) (Goalkeeper)
(With inputs from Rica Roy)