Hockey

Birendra Lakra back in national squad

Birendra Lakra.

Birendra Lakra.   | Photo Credit: S_Subramanium

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Having undergone surgery and in a race against time to return to full fitness ahead of the Rio Olympics, defender Birendra Lakra has made a return to the national team for the upcoming six-nation invitational hockey tournament to be played in Valencia, Spain, from June 27 to July 3.

The 20-member squad for the event was announced on Monday with Sardar Singh, drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh and striker Ramandeep Singh also returning to action after being rested for the recent Champions Trophy, where India finished runner-up. Sixteen of the 18 players that featured in that tournament have been retained. Young striker Mandeep Singh and midfielder Pradeep Mor have returned home as coach Roelant Oltmans continues to try and test all the players from the core group in competition before finalising the 16 for Rio.

Lakra was seriously injured during the Hockey India League in February this year and had to undergo urgent knee surgery in the first week of March. Since then, he had been in rehabilitation at the SAI centre, Bengaluru, under the supervision of physio Shrikant Iyengar. His match fitness would be crucial to Oltman’s final plans for Rio.

“He has improved a lot and is now training properly. The six-nation event will help better in assessing his fitness,” captain Sardar Singh told The Hindu.

Young defender Surender Kumar has been rewarded for his impressive performance during the Champions Trophy with an extended stay with the national side.

The tournament, played on a round-robin format also features Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland and host Spain — all teams that have qualified for the Olympics.

The squad: Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Vikas Dahiya; defenders: Rupinderpal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra; midfielders: Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Devindar Walmiki, Harjeet Singh; forwards: Talwinder Singh, S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:10:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/Birendra-Lakra-back-in-national-squad/article14434017.ece

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