New Delhi: Odisha defenders Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas have retained their places in India’s 18-member men’s hockey squad announced Monday for next month’s Asian Games in Indonesia, where they would be defending their gold medal.
Ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh and striker Akashdeep Singh returned to the squad, which just had two changes from the one that recently finished runners-up in the Champions Trophy. While Rupinder returned to the side in place of Jarmanpreet Singh, forward Akashdeep replaced an injured Ramandeep Singh. The rest of the squad, to be led by veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, remained the same.
India defeated Pakistan in the final at the 2014 edition in Incheon, Korea to win the gold and will be eager for an encore as it give them an automatic berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
India’s chief coach Harendra Singh expressed satisfaction with the composition of the team. “We have a great mix of players who have shown their abilities in recent tournaments. However, it is unfortunate we will be missing Ramandeep’s experience as he is ruled out due to a recent knee surgery,” Harendra said.
“It is good to have Akashdeep back in the mix. Both Rupinder and Akashdeep have remained in camp when the team were away in Breda and have had good match practice against Bangladesh over the past week and are raring to go,” he added.
In the next three weeks India will take on the Korean national team in five practice matches and New Zealand in three games.
“While the practice matches against Korea will have a mix of players from the core group, the matches against New Zealand will be played by the 18 members who are selected for the Asian Games,” informed the coach.
“I believe this will be good for the team in their preparation for the Asian Games where we will certainly go for the gold to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” asserted Harendra.
The squad: (Goalkeepers): PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak; (Defenders): Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas; (Midfielders): Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Simranjeet Singh, Sardar Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad; (Forwards) SV Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh.