Rupinder Pal Singh Named Indian Captain for Asia Cup
Veteran drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who recently came out of retirement, will lead India at the Asia Cup as Hockey India announced a 20-member team for the upcoming tournament in Jakarta on Monday.
The prestigious event, which will be held from May 23 to June 1, is a World Cup qualifier.
Senior players like Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh will give the tournament a miss.
Birender Lakra has been named deputy to Rupinder for the event, where a second-string team represent India.
Both Rupinder and Lakra had announced their retirement after the Tokyo Games last year but made themselves available for selection later on.
It will be the first assignment for former captain and two-time Olympian Sardar Singh as India’s coach.
India have been grouped with Japan, Pakistan and hosts Indonesia in pool A, while Malaysia, Korea, Oman and Bangladesh comprise pool B.
The team has as many as 10 players who make their senior debut, including junior World Cup players Yashdeep Siwach, Abhisek Lakra, Manjeet, Vishnukant Singh and Uttam Singh.
Also new in the team will be Mareeswaren Sakthivel, Sheshe Gowda BM, Pawan Rajbhar, Abharan Sudev and S Karthi.
The team features two goalkeepers in Pankaj Kumar Rajak and Suraj Karkera. Defenders include Rupinder, Yashdeep Siwach, Abhisek Lakra, Lakra, Manjeet, Dipsan Tirkey, Vishnukant Singh, Raj Kumar Pal, Mareeswaren Sakthivel, Sheshe Gowda BM, Simranjeet Singh.
Forwards Pawan Rajbhar, Abharan Sudev, SV Sunil, Uttam Singh and S.Karthi have also been named in the squad.
Junior World Cup players Maninder Singh and Nilam Sanjeep Xess have been named as replacement players while Pawan, Pardeep Singh, Ankit Pal and Angad Bir Singh have been named as standbys.
Speaking about the team composition, Coach BJ Kariappa said, “The team is a good mix of experienced senior players and newcomers, many of whom have played at the international level in different age-group matches but have not made their Senior India debut.
“Since India has already qualified for the FIH Men’s World Cup by virtue of being the hosts, this will be a good platform for us to try out this new group and test how these players utilize the opportunity.”
Coach Sardar said, “This is a very talented group of players and I have seen them work really hard over the past few weeks to earn a place in the team.
“On a personal front, this will be my first tournament as India Coach and I am looking forward to this new experience.”
A member of the national selection committee said it was decided that India would field its reserve players in the Asia Cup to give the youngsters a chance to test their potential among the best at the continental level.
“When we announced to send our ‘A’ team to the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, we had already decided to send the same bunch of players to the Asia Cup to help them gain experience. Now that Asian Games have been postponed, it gives us more time to test our bench strength,” the selector told PTI.
“With a packed schedule lined up, it also provides our main team players to take a break and prepare their best in the national camp here. It also provides the youngsters opportunity to make their mark and secure a place in the senior side.”
Indian Men’s Team:
Goalkeepers: Pankaj Kumar Rajak, Suraj Karkera
Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh (Captain), Yashdeep Siwach, Abhisek Lakra, Birendra Lakra (Vice Captain), Manjeet, Dipsan Tirkey
Midfielders: Vishnukant Singh, Raj Kumar Pal, Mareeswaren Sakthivel,, Sheshe Gowda BM, Simranjeet Singh
Forwards: Pawan Rajbhar, Abharan Sudev, SV Sunil, Uttam Singh, S Karthi
Replacement Players: Maninder Singh, Nilam Sanjeep Xess
Standbys: Pawan, Pardeep Singh, Ankit Pal, Angad Bir Singh.