Experienced drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh will captain the India team while seasoned Birendra Lakra will be his deputy during the Men's Asia Cup hockey tournament scheduled to be held in Jakarta from May 23 to June 1 this year.
Hockey India on Monday named a 20-member squad for the tournament, which is a World Cup qualifier. India are clubbed with Japan, Pakistan and hosts Indonesia in Pool A, while Malaysia, Korea, Oman and Bangladesh are in Pool B. Defending champions India have included 10 new players, who will be making their senior debut.
They include FIH Men's 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. 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.
"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," said coach BJ Kariappa.
Former India captain and two-time Olympian Sardar Singh will also accompany the team as coach. He felt that the players had shown great potential over the last few months during the national camp.
"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," said Sardar.
Squad: 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.