Birendra Lakra back, 11 Olympic debutants in Indian men’s hockey team for Tokyo 2020

The Indian men’s hockey team will begin its Tokyo Olympics campaign with a match against New Zealand on July 24.

By Naveen Peter

Hockey India, on Friday, named a 16-member-strong Indian men’s hockey team for next month’s Tokyo Olympics.

While the experienced PR Sreejesh will be the lone goalkeeper in the side, the other departments see a fine mix of experience and youth. The squad will head to Tokyo hoping to better its quarter-final finish from Rio 2016.

The Indian defence is loaded with Olympic veterans Rupinderpal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh leading the line in the company of Surender Kumar and Amit Rohidas. Senior pro Birendra Lakra, who missed the Rio 2016 bus due to an injury, also returns to the mix five years later.

The midfield will be marshalled by the enigmatic Manpreet Singh with Olympic debutants Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma and Sumit providing support.

Mandeep Singh is the senior-most forward in the side with chief coach Graham Reid counting on youngsters Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay to come good in Tokyo.

“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,” Graham Reid said.

“They know what it means to represent the country at the Olympics. We are now focussed on training with the same intensity and our goal is to put forward our best performance as a collective unit in Tokyo,” the Aussie head coach added.

With the Indian hockey team devoid of any competitive action since its FIH Pro League matches against Argentina earlier this year, the team management opted for a series of intra-squad matches to finalise the Olympic squad.

India will begin their Tokyo 2020 campaign with a match against New Zealand on July 24. India are grouped in Pool A along with reigning Olympic champions Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan.

Forwards Akashdeep Singh, SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh, who were a part of the Rio 2016 squad, are the notable absentees from the Tokyo 2020 squad.

Manpreet Singh has been the go-to captain of the Indian men’s hockey team for some time now but Hockey India hasn't named an official skipper for the team yet.

Indian men’s hockey squad for Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh

Defenders: Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit

Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay

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