Bengaluru: PR Sreejesh will lead Indian Men’s Hockey team in the Asian Champions Trophy scheduled from October 20, 2016 onward. Earlier, today, Hockey India announced the squad for the fourth edition of the tournament which is organized by the Asian Hockey Federation and held in Kuantan, Malaysia, starting 20 October 2016.
India which will try to improve their performance after a not so well Rio Olympics appearance and the Asian Champions Trophy will just be in time to test their capabilities in matches against Korea, Japan, China and hosts Malaysia apart from defending champions Pakistan. With two months break after the Olympic appearance, India would have not only got the required break to re-associate them to match winning enthusiasm, but also allowed them to get some match practice to the players in the recently held Obaidullah Khan Heritage Hockey Cup and MCC-Murugappa Cup.
Speaking about importance of the tournament and the enthusiasm, Indian Coach Roelant Oltmans said, “The Asian Champions Trophy is an important tournament for us and going by the world rankings, India will go in as favourites to win the title. The team has been upbeat since their return to the camp after the Olympic Games and are eager to start the season on a winning note.”
The 18-member squad which is led by Sreejesh who along with his deputy 24-year-old midfielder Manpreet Singh, will try to channelize the enthusiasm of the Indian Players towards positive outcome of the matches.
Other than Sreejesh and Manpreet, the team also have Akash Chikte (GK); Rupinder Pal Singh, Pardeep Mor, Jasjit Singh Kular, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh & Surender Kumar (defenders); Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa & Devindar Walmiki (midfielders); Talwinder Singh, S.V. Sunil, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah & Affan Yousuf (forwards).
Speaking about the challenge, Indian Captain P.R. Sreejesh emphasised on playing with caution, “We may be the top ranked team in Asia right now but no team can be taken lightly. The defending Champions (Pakistan) are known to spring a surprise and Korea too will be a team to watch out for as they have been playing good quality hockey lately.”
The team will see a comeback from one of its key players, Birendra Lakra who missed India’s campaign at Rio 2016 Summer Games due to injury. He recently appeared for Obaidullah Khan Heritage Hockey Cup & MCC-Murugappa Cup and showed what India missed during the Olympics. Also included is defender Jasjit Singh Kular who will be playing ahead of Raghunath VR who’s rested in this tournament.
The team looks balanced generally as the emphasis has been on to provide young Talwinder and Lalit in the forward line exposure to create good pool. India will field Talwinder Singh & Lalit Kumar Upadhyay in place of Akashdeep and Ramandeep.