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Hockey: Manpreet to lead full strength India in 2022 Commonwealth Games

Only the winner of the Asian Games gets direct qualification to Paris 2024.

With the 2022 Asian Games standing postponed, India will send its best ever squad to Birmingham for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Though Hockey India had earlier announced that an experimental team coached by Olympian Sardar Singh will represent the country in the Birmingham Commonwealth games, it has now reviewed its decision.

One of the prime factors for sending the full strength team to Birmingham is the postponement of the Asian Games to next year. Since the Asian Games is the qualification tournament for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Hockey India wanted to preserve its best squad for the Olympic qualifier. Only the winner of the Asian Games gets direct qualification to Paris 2024.

Another factor for change in the decision to send a full strength squad is the poor finish of the experimental side in the Asia Cup held in Jakarta where India finished a poor third. The team that participated in the Jakarta tournament had only a sprinkling of experience as the majority of players were debutants in senior level of competitive hockey. The team was coached by Sardar Singh.

Hockey India  reposed its trust in Olympian Manpreet Singh and drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh as captain and vice-captain of the 18-member squad that will play in the Commonwealth Games.

The Indian team has been grouped in pool B along with England, Canada, Wales and Ghana.

Other teams include Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

The two-time former silver medallist India  will start its campaign on July 31 against Ghana.

It may be recalled that Manpreet had led India  to a historic bronze medal  win at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year. After a brief break during which  drag flicker and defender Amit Rohidas led India, including the FIH Pro League, Manpreet is back in the saddle.

Harmanpreet, who has been named the deputy, emerged as the highest goal scorer of the FIH Hockey Pro League.

“We have decided to go with a tried-and-tested team for the Commonwealth Games. These players have the experience of playing top teams in high pressure games in the FIH Pro League which was a good exposure for us ahead of the prestigious quadrennial event,” chief coach Graham Reid said in a Press statement.

“After a brief break when we return home from the Netherlands, we will resume camp in SAI, Bengaluru, where we will analyse our performance against Belgium and Netherlands.

“While there are many takeaways from this outing in the FIH Pro League, there surely are a few areas that we can improve upon ahead of the Commonwealth Games.”

The squad includes experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and Krishan B Pathak, who returns to the team after a brief injury break. Defenders Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Jugraj Singh and Jarmanpreet Singh have been named in the team.

The midfield comprises Manpreet, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Shamsher Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Nilakanta Sharma.

Seasoned strikers Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Abhishek will lead the charge in attack.

Goalkeeper Suraj Karkera and forwards Shilanand Lakra and Sukhjeet Singh, who were part of the  Indian team for the FIH Pro League, however, could not retain their places in the squad.

India had finished fourth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.

Prabhjot Singh

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