Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Hockey India on Friday named 11 Olympic debutants in its 16-member men’s squad to be led versatile mid-fielder Manpreet Singh for the Tokyo Games.
The Olympics is scheduled from 23rd July to 5th August in Tokyo. Indian is grouped in Pool A along with reigning Olympic Champions Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan
The squad comprises of one goalkeeper, five defenders, five midfielders, and as many forwards.
Veteran goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh, Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Mandeep Singh are the five players in the team who were also part of the 2016 Rio Olympic squad.
The debutants are Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Birendra Lakra.
This is going to be the third successive Olympics for goalkeeper Sreejesh who had led the squad in 2016. After missing the previous Olympics due to a major knee injury, Birendra Lakra gets a chance to be part of the squad for the Games.
Experienced strikers Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh, both of whom were a part of the Rio Games team, are the surprised exclusions.
Commenting on the team selection, Chief Coach Graham Reid said, “It has not been an easy process to make the final selection of 16 players as there is a lot of quality and ambition in this group of players.
“The performance levels of all the athletes are at an optimum level and more importantly they work well together. They know what it means to represent the country at the Olympics. We are now focused on training with the same intensity and our goal is to put forward our best performance as a collective unit in Tokyo.”
As a part of Olympics preparations, the team travelled to Europe and Argentina and put up a good show against teams like Germany, Great Britain and reigning Olympic Champions Argentina .
The team also got a chance to return to high-level competition like FIH Pro League, where they defeated Argentina in both the matches and set the tone for the Olympics
It has been 41 years since the Indian team last won an Olympic Medal. The current team has won the 2016 & 2018 Asian Champions Trophy, 2017 Asia Cup Gold and 2019 World Series as well over the last few years.
Goalkeeper: PR Sreejesh
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra
Mid-fielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit
Forwards: Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh