Indian skipper Manpreet Singh has returned to the squad ahead of the FIH Pro League matches against Argentina to be played in Buenos Aires on April 11 and 12. The Graham Reid-coached India will also play four practice games against the 2016 Rio Olympic champions on April 6, 7, 13 and 14. The 22-member Indian contingent will depart for the South American nation on Wednesday.
The squad will also see the return of drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh and defender Varun Kumar, who had missed the European tour due to rehab.
Manpreet had earlier opted out of the European tour due to personal reasons. Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Simranjeet Singh, who were part of the European tour, have been rested.
“Once again, we are excited about being able to travel overseas for international competition. We are taking a 22-man squad attempting to provide a good balance between giving experience to those players who need it and opportunities for players to perform on the international stage in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics," Reid said in a press statement.
“We will be playing four practice games against Argentina and two all-important FIH Hockey Pro League matches. To play the Olympic Champions is always an honour and a privilege in our sport and especially challenging to play them in their own country,” Reid added.
Earlier, India returned to international action post COVID-19 during their unbeaten European tour. India opened their campaign with a 6-0 win against Germany before playing out a 1-1 stalemate against the same opposition. The Men in Blue then drew 1-1 against Great Britain before capping the tour with a 3-2 win over the British side.
Defense is the focus: India coach Graham Reid
After their European tour, the India coach had stressed on the need to work more on their defense. The matches against Argentina will help the Australian to assess how much they have improved ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
“Argentina play a different style of game to the teams we played in Europe, and we will be using this tour as a great opportunity to continue our growth and development before Tokyo,” Reid said.
Currently, India are in fifth position in the FIH Pro League standings with 10 points from six games. After the matches against Argentina, the Indian team will play as many as eight FIH Pro League matches in May.
“These games will provide opportunities to hone our skills and tactics in a period where all teams have been starved of international competition. Given how challenging it is to move around the world like we once did, we appreciate the efforts of SAI, Hockey India, Argentine Hockey Confederation (CAH) and FIH for making these matches possible,” Reid concluded.
The Indian squad:
PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Amit Rohidas, Gurinder Singh, Harmanpreet Singh (vice-captain), Surender Kumar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Jaskaran Singh, Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Vivek Sagar Prasad, Raj Kumar Pal, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Shamsher Singh, Gurjant Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Shilanand Lakra.