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Indian players to watch out for at Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018

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Hockey India

Indian players to watch out for at Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018

The Men’s Hockey World Cup is scheduled to be played in Bhubaneswar from November 28 and the Indian team under the guidance of Harendra Singh will be aiming to grab the title for the second time in history. India has won the prestigious tournament only once back in 1975 in Kuala Lumpur.

Hockey India has named an 18-member squad for the world event which is being played in India for the third time. The home team is expected to get maximum support from the crowd at a venue which has already hosted Champions Trophy in 2014 and Men’s Hockey World League Final last year and India finished at fourth and third in those tournaments. The team will want to take a leap to the top position with young Manpreet Singh as the captain and Chinglensana Singh as his deputy in the team. The Indian team will miss the services of forwardSV Sunil and defender Rupinder Pal Singh who are nursing injuries at the moment and are not a part of the squad for the World Cup. The Indian team has seven players who were a part of the Junior World Cup-winning side a couple of years back.

Here’s a look at the Indian team combination before the grand event:

Manpreet Singh (Captain), Midfielder 

The responsibility of leading the team will be on the able shoulders of Manpreet Singh who recently led the Indian side to the final of Asian Champions Trophy in Oman. The 26-year-old hockey star from Punjab is known for his swift movement on the turf and brilliant presence of mind when on the field. Making his debut at the age of 19 in 2011, ‘Korean’ (his nickname in the team) is the most-capped player with 238 international matches in his career so far. As a captain, he led India to victory in Asia Cup held in Bangladesh after a gap of 10 long years.

 © Hockey India

Chinglensana Singh (Vice Captain), Midfielder 

The 26-year-old midfielder from Manipur will be playing his 200th international game in the first game of the upcoming World Cup and he will shoulder the burden of being Manpreet’s deputy in the team as well as in the midfield. With an experience of 199 matches under his belt, he will try to take the ball with his fast pace and good control into the opposition’s half. India has played on its counter-attacking skills and in the absence of SV Sunil, Chinglensana’s pace will come in handy for the home side in the midfield. 

PR Sreejesh, Goalkeeper 

PR Sreejesh is one of the best goalkeepers in world hockey but his recent form has raised a few doubts on his capabilities. With 204 international caps, the 30-year-old custodian is the second most experienced player in terms of the number of matches in the current Indian team for the World Cup. He failed during the penalty shootouts against Australia in the Champions Trophy final against Malaysia in the semi-final of the Asian Games earlier this year. He would look forward to returning to form in the World Cup. The team management has high hopes from him in terms of conceding goals against the opponents, especially during the penalty corners. 

Birendra Lakra, Defender 

The second most experienced player in the defence Birendra Lakra is making a comeback into the Indian squad after an injury. He was out of the Asian Champions Trophy team because of rehabilitation from his injury. With Lakra getting back to the team, the defence can have a sigh of relief. He will play his third major tournament in front of his home crowd in Bhubaneswar and the defence will depend on the 28-year-old. He will look forward to maintain a good understanding with other defenders and his experience will be of much importance for others in India’s striking circle. 

Kothajit Singh, Defender 

Like Lakra, Kothajit is the other experienced defender in the Indian squad and his ability to stay calm in crucial junctures makes him an important part of India’s defensive unit. The 26-year-old Manipuri is known for his fast movement on the turf as well and have to shoulder the responsibility of marking the opponents during their attacking moves. 

Harmanpreet Singh, Defender 

Apart from being an important member of the defence set up, Harmanpreet will have the additional responsibility of being the drag-flicker of the team. With his ability to nail the drag-flicks to find the back of the net, Harmanpreet has been doing well with his abilities of converting penalty corners which have been a major concern for the Indian team management for a long time. He was in a good form in the recently-concluded Asian Champions Trophy as well and the team would want to utilise him to maximum effect during the PCs. The 22-year-old drag-flicker from Amritsar will be eager to perform well at the same venue where he made his international debut in 2015 against Japan in a four-match bilateral series. 

The Indian defence will also have local lad Amit Rohidas along with Varun Kumar and Surender Kumar 

Venue for Men's Hockey World Cup - Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar ©

Hardik Singh, Midfielder 

Rubbing the shoulders with the skipper and the vice-captain in the midfield, there will be 20-year-old Hardik Singh who could emerge as a dark horse for India during the tournament. He made his debut in the recently-concluded Asian Champions Trophy is Muscat and played six matches for the senior Indian side. Because of the impressive show in his debut tournament in the senior team, he got a surprise call for the World Cup ahead of Vivek Sagar Prasad who led the Indian side in the Youth Olympics.

Sumit and Nilakanta Sharma are the other two defenders to be a part of the Indian midfield in the upcoming World Cup. 

Akashdeep Singh, Forward 

Being the most experienced player in the Indian forward line with 174 games international matches, Akashdeep Singh will try to breach through the opposition defence during India’s attack. He needs to take up the responsibility of maintaining a proper understanding between the strikers of the team. Circle penetration will be of utmost importance for the 23-year-old who played a crucial role in the Hockey World League Final last year where India finished third in Bhubaneswar. Returning to the same venue, he will try to repeat his act from the previous outing at the Kalinga Stadium. 

Mandeep Singh, Forward 

Having played together with Akashdeep, Mandeep is expected to have a good understanding with him which will come in very handing for India in the forward line. Mandeep has been a regular member of the Indian team since his debut in 2012 and has maintained a good track record in creating opportunities and getting penalty corners at crucial junctures of the game. His skillful hockey player will be of great help for India in keeping possession in the opposition’s half and in circle penetrations as well. The 23-year-old Mandeep is also one of the seven players in the current World Cup squad who were a part of the Junior World Cup played in Lucknow in 2016 where India was crowned champions. Repeating that historic moment this time with the senior team will be in his mind when he will don the blue jersey in front of the home crowd again. 

Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, who was a part of HIL’s defending champs Kalinga Lancers, is another important cog in India’s forward along with inexperienced Dilpreet Singh and Simranjeet Singh. 

Hosts India has been kept in Pool C alongside Belgium, Canada and South Africa for the upcoming World Cup. The Manpreet Singh-led side will meet South Africa in the opening evening before taking on Belgium and Canada on December 2 and 8 respectively. The final game of the tournament is scheduled to be played on December 16. 

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