The 16-member Indian men’s hockey squad for the Tokyo Olympics was announced on Friday with a few surprise inclusions and omissions that reiterate the team management’s preference for youngsters.
Only five players from the Rio Olympics have been retained, with P.R. Sreejesh and Manpreet Singh playing their third Olympics. Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Surender Kumar are the other three.
While Birendra Lakra, who missed Rio due to a knee injury and surgery, returns, the most surprising exclusions are those of the striking trio of S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh.
The three have a collective 600 caps and 200 international goals in major competitions.
While Hockey India said the team was “fuelled with a fresh approach-based intense training and preparation” at the ongoing preparatory camp, the absence of seniors, along with Varun Kumar, seems to indicate persistence with the fresh-legs formula in team selection, especially in the attack section.
“It has not been an easy process to make the final selection as there is a lot of quality and ambition in this group of players. The performance levels of all the athletes are at an optimum level and more importantly they work well together,” coach Graham Reid said.
Focused on training
“We are now focused on training with the same intensity and our goal is to put forward our best performance as a collective unit in Tokyo,” he added.
India is grouped in Pool A along with Olympic champion Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and host Japan.
The squad: Goalkeeper: P.R. Sreejesh; Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra; Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit; Forwards: Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Mandeep Singh.