Rupinder to lead second-string India in men”s Asia Cup hockey

New Delhi: Veteran dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who recently came out of retirement, will lead a second-string Indian men’s hockey team in the Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in Jakarta from May 23 to June 1.
The 20-member Indian team will have vice-captain in Birendra Lakra, who too has returned from retirement.
Part of India’s bronze medal-winning team at the Tokyo Games, both Rupinder and Lakra had announced their retirements after the Olympics but made themselves available for selection later on.
Asia Cup is a World Cup qualifier but India, being the hosts, have a confirmed entry in the big-ticket event, which will be held in January next year.
The top-3 teams in Asia Cup will qualify for the World Cup.
The Indian squad includes another veteran in SV Sunil, who too returned from retirement and is regarded a livewire on the field. He, however, was not part of the Tokyo Olympics squad due to an injury.
Defending champions India have been clubbed along side Japan, arch-rivals Pakistan and hosts Indonesia in Pool A, while Malaysia, Korea, Oman and Bangladesh have been grouped in Pool B.
The Indian team has as many as 10 players who are set to make their senior India debut, including Yashdeep Siwach, Abhisek Lakra, Manjeet, Vishnukant Singh and Uttam Singh, who were part of the junior World Cup.
Besides, the side also has new players like Mareeswaren Sakthivel, Sheshe Gowda BM, Pawan Rajbhar, Abharan Sudev and S Karthi.
Senior players like Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh have been rested for the tournament, keeping in mind the busy international calendar ahead.
The Indian team will compete in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, FIH Pro League matches and the FIH Men’s World Cup early next year.
It will be first assignment for former captain and two-time Olympian Sardar Singh as India ‘A’ coach.
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.
Junior World Cup players Maninder Singh and Nilam Sanjeep Xess have been named as replacements while Pawan, Pardeep Singh, Ankit Pal and Angad Bir Singh are standbys. —PTI

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