India’s seasoned striker Ramandeep Singh was on Tuesday recalled to the Indian squad to be led by Manpreet Singh at the FIH Men’s Series Finals, commencing on June 6 in Bhubaneswar. Ramandeep, who has been out of action due to a knee injury, has returned after a gap of nine months. Varun Kumar, who was rested for the Australian tour, and Amit Rohidas have also made a comeback, while midfielder Sumit also returns to the team. Birendra Lakra has been named Manpreet’s deputy for the upcoming tournament as Hockey India announced the much-awaited 18-member squad. The 26-year-old Ramandeep will be seen tackling India’s forward-line alongside Mandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Akashdeep Singh.
Experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and Krishan B Pathak will defend the post for the team. Harmanpreet Singh, Lakra, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas and Gurinder Singh will form India’s backline, while the midfield will see Manpreet playing a key role along with youngsters Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Sumit and Nilakanta Sharma. India have been grouped in Pool A along with Russia, Poland and Uzbekistan while Japan, Mexico, USA and South Africa are grouped in Pool B.
India will begin their campaign on June 6 against Russia and will be aiming to finish at the top in order to make it for the Olympic qualifying event, which will be held later this year. “I am very much looking forward to my first FIH tournament as chief coach of the Indian team. The tournament is an important step in the Olympic qualification process,” said chief coach Graham Reid. “We have selected a well-balanced group including Ramandeep Singh, who is returning from injury and Varun Kumar who was rested for the Australian tour.
“Sumit and Amit Rohidas too return to bolster our defensive capabilities and our Penalty Corner. Simranjeet also returns to add some flexibility and strike power to the forward-line,” added Reid. Reid said the team’s emphasis at the moment is on circle entries, finishing, tight marking and tackling. “Our focus for the tournament will be the consistency of performance. To achieve this will we need to respect every opposition and give our 100 percent every quarter, each half, each game. Our goal will be to be the best team we can be,” said the coach.
“The Australian tour made us very aware of the level we need to play at to compete with the best teams of the world and we need to aim for that each time we train and each time we play. “We are spending a lot of time at the moment on our circle entries, our finishing, tight marking and tackling and we want to see improvements in these areas. PCs are also important and we have chosen three drag-flickers to use during the tournament,” he added.
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra (Vice-Captain), Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Gurinder Singh.
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma.
Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Simranjit Singh.