Star midfielder and Olympic bronze medal-winning captain Manpreet Singh will lead a 20-member strong Indian hockey team in the double-leg FIH Pro League ties against South Africa and France to be held between February 8 to 13. Manpreet will be assisted by ace dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh.
Young dragflicker Jugraj Singh and striker Abhishek are the two new faces in the squad. Jugraj, who is from Attari, came into the senior national camp for the very first time this time after he impressed the national selectors during the first Hockey India Senior Men Inter Department National Championship, where he turned up for Services Sports Control Board.
Abhishek, on the other hand, is a striker who was earlier part of the junior program and had played for the India colts in Sultan of Johor Cup in 2017 and 2018. From Sonepat, Haryana, Abhishek also did well for Punjab National Bank in the maiden Senior Men Inter Department National Championship which helped him earn a spot in the senior national camp for the first time.
The 20-member squad also includes goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and Krishan Bahadur Pathak; defenders Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh and Jugraj. The midfield will be under the watchful eyes of Manpreet and also includes Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Shamsher Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad.
The forward line includes Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Akashdeep Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Dilpreet Singh and Abhishek. "After a three-week camp in Bengaluru, a team has been selected that includes 14 Tokyo Olympians and two debutants," India's chief coach Graham Reid said in a statement.
Keeping in mind the COVID-19 pandemic, India will travel with four additional players besides keeping five stand-byes in hand. "We have tried to choose an experienced group that will not only give us a great opportunity to start this season of the FIH Hockey Pro League in a positive manner, it reflects the high quality of opposition we will encounter in the opening games.
"We are also using this opportunity to debut two new players. Jugraj Singh, a versatile defender/midfielder who adds to our dragflick options and Abhishek is a strong, fast striker who loves scoring goals," the Australian added.
The Indian team will leave for South Africa from Bengaluru on February 4. India will play France in their first match on February 8 before squaring off against hosts South Africa the next day. The Indians will again play France on February 12 and then finish off their engagements against South Africa the next day. Both the two-match ties will be held at Potchefstroom, South Africa.
Indian hockey squad:
Goalkeepers: P R Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak.
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh (Vice-captain), Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Jugraj Singh.
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Shamsher Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad.
Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Akashdeep Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Dilpreet Singh, Abhishek.
Standbys: Suraj Karkera, Mandeep Mor, Raj Kumar Pal, Sumit, Gursahibjit Singh.