HOCKEY/ Harmanpreet to lead as HI names team for Paris Olympics

Published - June 26, 2024 06:18 pm IST - Panchkula

At the helm: Harmanpreet

At the helm: Harmanpreet | Photo Credit: File Photo: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Harmanpreet Singh will be in charge as the final 16-member Indian men’s hockey squad for the Paris Olympics was announced on Wednesday with coach Craig Fulton hoping a mix of youth and experience will help the team manage a second successive podium finish.

P.R. Sreejesh expectedly took the sole goalkeeper’s spot as the veteran, along with Manpreet Singh, joined an elite club of Indian hockey players to appear in four Olympics each – others being Leslie Claudius, Udham Singh and Dhanraj Pillay. Harmanpreet, who made his Olympic debut in 2016 as the youngest member of the side, will be appearing in his third outing 

At the other end of the spectrum will be five Olympic debutants as the Indian team hopes to emulate, or go one better, on the Tokyo bronze-winning side. Hardik Singh will continue to be Harmanpreet’s deputy in Paris as the team was announced after two days of selection trials at the SAI Centre, Bangalore watched by the selection committee.

Among the debutants are Sanjay and Jarmanpreet Singh in defence, Rajkumar Pal in the midfield and Abhishek and Sukhjeet Singh in the attack. Goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Tokyo medalist Nilakanta Sharma and Jugraj Singh have been named as alternatives. Youngsters Araijit Singh Hundal and Mohd. Raheel Mouseen, impressive in their recent outings with the senior side, have also been overlooked in an attempt to ensure enough experience in the forward line.

While most of the selections are on expected lines, Jugraj being in the reserves is the only surprise given the youngster had been the back-up penalty corner specialist to Harmanpreet for some time. While Sanjay has been said to do the job, he has hardly been tested on the international stage and he may just be the unknown factor Fulton would be relying on.

“The selection process for the Paris Olympics squad was incredibly competitive due to the depth of talent within our ranks, however, I am confident that every player chosen will bring their best. Each player selected has demonstrated exceptional skill, dedication, and resilience throughout our rigorous preparation phase,” Fulton said.

“This squad embodies a perfect blend of experienced players and promising young talents, giving us the versatility and energy required to tackle the challenges ahead. Our focus has been on building a cohesive team that can adapt to different playing styles and situations, and I believe we have achieved that,” he added.

India is in Pool B alongside defending champion Belgium, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Ireland, needing a top-four finish to advance. India will begin its campaign on July 27 against New Zealand, followed by Argentina (July 29), Ireland (July 30), Belgium (August 1) and Australia (August 2).

The squad: Goalkeeper: P.R. Sreejesh.

Defenders: Jarmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Harmanpreet Singh, Sumit, Sanjay.

Midfielders: Rajkumar Pal, Shamsher Singh, Manpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad.

Forwards: Abhishek, Sukhjeet Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh, Gurjant Singh.

Reserves: Nilakanta Sharma, Jugraj Singh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak.

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