Former captain Sardar Singh was on Thursday brought back to bolster the Indian hockey team’s mid-field while Birendra Lakra was included to shore up the defence line-up for the upcoming Champions Trophy, beginning on June 23 in Breda, The Netherlands.
Hockey India announced the 18-man squad for the last edition of the prestigious event and made a lot of changes to the side, to be led by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
Sardar was not part of the Indian team, which had a disappointing outing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He was expected to reclaim his place in the side after being included in the national training camp in Bengaluru.
Also making a comeback to the side is Lakra, who like Sardar, was not part of the CWG squad.
The selectors have dropped defenders Rupinder, Kothajit Singh and Gurinder Singh while Jaramanpreet Singh and Surendra Kumar were included.
Among the strikers, the axe fell on Lalit Upadhyay and Gurjant Singh as Ramandeep Singh earned his place back.
The selectors also replaced goalkeeper Suraj Karkera with Krishan Bahadur Pathak. Sreejesh, under whose captaincy India won a silver in the last edition, said the team is determined to do well.
India had lost the final to world number one Australia and it was their first podium finish at the event after 34 years.
“I think that was the closest we came to winning the gold and most importantly beating Australia. Though we had to settle for a second place, it was a memorable tournament. This time too, we want to make it a memorable one as it’s the last edition of the prestigious event,” said Sreejesh.
Chief coach Harendra Singh made it clear that the players have to do well to be in the reckoning for a place in the Asian Games squad.
“It is an extremely important tournament for the players to showcase their firepower as the team for the forthcoming Asian Games in Jakarta will be picked on the basis of performance at the Commonwealth Games and the Champions Trophy,” Singh said.
“While this team will be put to test against another Asian powerhouse Pakistan who we will face in the Asian Games, the Champions Trophy will provide the ideal platform to see where we stand against higher-ranked teams like Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands and Argentina in the lead up to the World Cup,” he added.
India will begin their campaign at the Champions Trophy against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 23.
Goalkeepers: Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran (C), Krishan Bahadur Pathak Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas.
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC) Sardar Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad.
Forwards: Sunil Sowmarpet Vitalacharya, Ramandeep Singh Mandeep Singh, Sumit Kumar (Jr.) Akashdeep Singh and Dilpreet Singh.