World Hockey:Manpreet to lead India in FIH Pro League games in South Africa

Next month when the third edition of the FIH Pro League gets revived, India will launch its campaign with matches against France and the hosts South Africa. A 20-member Indian team led by midfielder Manpreet Singh with drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh as his deputy will head for Potchefstroom in South Africa early next month for the four games between February 8 and 13.

Though initially India was scheduled to play Canada in its opener, but the North American team withdrew from the competition, citing Omicron pandemic as the reason. Earlier, Australia and New Zealand also sought leave of absence from the third edition on similar pleas.

Hockey India on Thursday named the 20-member Indian  team that will see two new faces in promising young dragflicker Jugraj Singh and speedy forward Abhishek. 

Jugraj, who is from Attari, Amritsar, walked into the Senior National camp for the very first time early this month after impressing the national selectors during the 1st Hockey India Senior Men Inter Department National Championship.  He turned up for Services Sports Control Board. 

Abhishek, on the other hand, is a striker who remained part of the Junior program and had played for India Colts in Sultan of Johor Cup in 2017 and in 2018. From Sonepat, Haryana, Abhishek did well for Punjab National Bank in the 1st Hockey India Senior Men Inter Department National Championship which helped him earn a spot in the Senior National camp for the first time.

The 20-member squad includes goalkeepers PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, defenders Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Jugraj Singh. Midfield will see Manpreet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Shamsher Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad in action. The forward line includes Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Akashdeep Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Dilpreet Singh and Abhishek.

Chief Coach Graham Reid said, “With a very busy and important year ahead, the Indian team is excited to be back on the world stage and playing in the latest edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League. After a three week camp in Bengaluru, the team has been selected that includes 14 Tokyo Olympians and 2 debutants.”

“We have tried to choose an experienced group that will not only give us a great opportunity to start this season of the FIH Hockey Pro League in a positive manner, it reflects the high quality of opposition we will encounter in the opening games. We are also using this opportunity to induct 2 new players. Jugraj Singh, a versatile defender/midfielder who adds to our drag flick options and Abhishek is a strong, fast striker who loves scoring goals,” Reid added.

The Indian Team will leave for South Africa from Bengaluru on  February 4. It will play France in its first match on February 8 and take on South Africa  next day. It will play France on February  12 and South Africa on the following day. 

Meanwhile, the Indian team, currently playing in the Asia Cup for women, will also start its FIH Pro League campaign with games against China in Muscat on January 31 and February 1.