With many of its star players caught in the tussle between Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation, Mumbai will field a depleted squad in the 64th senior National hockey championship here.
The IHF-sanctioned tournament, known as the Rangaswamy Cup, begins at the KSHA Stadium on Wednesday.
Mumbai defeated Haryana in the final of the 2010 edition, the last time the tournament was held.
“Our best players like Yuvraj Valmiki, Devendra Valmiki, Shivendra Singh and B.K. Muthanna are not available, as they are at the camp conducted by Hockey India. These players are the core of our team,” said Nandu Rajagopal, Mumbai’s manager.
The West Zone winner takes on Karnataka, another team affected by the Hockey India camp, in the opening match.
Chance for youngsters
The absence of the first-choice players, however, allows the younger players to showcase their skills on the big stage.
“There are quite a few players in our squad who figured in the recent junior Nationals; it’s a good squad,” said Rajagopal after a practice session on Tuesday.
“We are the defending champion and we are here to retain the trophy. The Rangaswamy Cup is an important event, it’s the pride of Indian hockey.”
The Jharkhand team, which arrived in the city early on Tuesday, had its first training session later in the day. For the East Zone champion, the tournament will serve as a chance to make everyone take notice of the players’ potential.
“We only play big tournaments like this twice or thrice in a year. If Jharkhand does well, people will realise that we are a good team. We’re here to prove that we belong,” said skipper Peter Kindo.
The Punjab and Manipur contingents are expected to reach the city on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s match: Karnataka v Mumbai (4.30 p.m.).