India midfielder Manpreet Singh will take over the captaincy from PR Sreejesh in the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat next month, marking the hockey team’s first major tournament after the retirement of Sardar Singh. Hockey India on Wednesday named the 18-member team beginning on October 18.
India will go into the tournament as the defending champions after they won the 2016 edition when they beat Pakistan 3-2 in the final in Kauntan, Malaysia. Chinglensana Singh has been named Manpreet’s deputy. Alongside experienced goalkeeper in Sreejesh, the team also features young goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, while the defensive unit will see seasoned defender Kothajit Singh Khadangbam make a comeback. Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar and Jarmanpreet Singh will also be involved in India’s defence while 20-year-old Hardik Singh will be making his debut for the senior team.
Skipper Manpreet, the recipient of this year’s Arjuna Award, will be responsible of commanding the midfield along with the experienced Chinglensana. The midfield duo will be joined by Lalit Kumar Upadhyay while Nilakanta Sharma and Sumit will also make a comeback into the side. India’s forward-line will see 23-year-old striker Gurjant Singh return to the squad while Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh and Dilpreet Singh will hope to score plenty of goals in Oman to help India retain the title.
Speaking on the team’s composition, chief coach Harendra Singh said: “I believe we have a great mix of players in this 18-member team as there is a right balance between youth and experience. “The tournament gives us the last chance to test a few players before the World Cup Bhubaneswar and I’m sure that these players will produce the results in Oman. It is important we stick to our plans and have a good outing in this tournament so that we can wash away the bad memories of the Asian Games,” he said.
The Indian team will continue to train in Bhubaneswar for the next three weeks as they are undergoing a camp, following which they will leave for the Asian Champions Trophy.
The World No. 5 team will be up against the likes of Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan and hosts Oman, with all the teams playing round-robin matches to progress to the semifinals.