New Delhi, January 8
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh may feature in his first competitive event in eight months after being named in India’s 20-member squad for a four-nation tournament in New Zealand. India will compete with Belgium, Japan and hosts New Zealand at Tauranga and Hamilton in the tournament, which begins on January 17.
The team will be led by 25-year-old midfielder Manpreet Singh, while Chinglensana Singh will be his deputy.
Sreejesh, who missed some key tournaments in 2017 due to a knee injury, will be joined by 20-year-old goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, a member of the 2016 Junior World Cup-winning team. Also getting a first senior team call-up is Pathak’s former junior India teammate, 21-year-old attacking mid-fielder Simranjeet Singh. The two Punjab players were part of the India A team that participated in the Australian Hockey League in September.
An inclusion that generates enthusiasm is that of 18-year-old striker Dilpreet Singh. Dilpreet, who, like Simranjeet and Pathak, is a product of Jalandhar’s Surjit Academy, was part of the junior team that won the bronze medal in the Sultan of Johor Cup last year. In his first international tournament in the U-21 age group, Dilpreet scored nine goals in six matches to end up as the tournament’s top scorer.
Another new inclusion is Dilpreet’s junior India teammate, midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad. Dilpreet will play alongside the likes of Ramandeep Singh and Mandeep Singh in the forwardline.
India’s defence features three drag-flickers — Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar. The midfield will see youngsters Harjeet Singh and Nilakanta Sharma making a comeback into the senior squad.
“The team is a good mix of young and experienced players. They will get to show their abilities against top teams,” said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne. “This is an important year for us with major tournaments in the pipeline and one of our focus areas is to perform consistently, especially against higher-ranked teams. We use this tour for our preparation for the Commonwealth Games,” he added.
Marijne said Sreejesh’s comeback was good for the team. “Of course, it is good for us that he (Sreejesh) is coming back. He is an experienced player,” the Dutchman said. “At the time when Sreejesh was not there, the other two goalies — Suraj Karkera and Akash Chikte — had their moments. Now, Krishan gets an opportunity. So, we have four good goalies, which will be a nice competition between them,” he added. — PTI
PR Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak, Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Vivek Prasad, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh, Satbir Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Armaan Qureshi.
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