Bhubaneswar: India men's hockey team will take on world No.3 the Netherlands in the FIH Pro League with an eye on the Tokyo Olympics here on Saturday. This will be India's debut in the FIH Pro League after having missed the first edition.
India will play Netherlands in two matches in their opening tie at the Kalinga Stadium here. The second match will be played on Sunday.
India will host world champions Belgium on February 8 and 9 followed by two more home ties against Australia on February 22 and 23 after the Netherlands games.
The Indian team will then leave for the away games in Germany (April 25 and 26) and Great Britain (May 2 and 3). India will return to play on home soil on May 23 and 24 against New Zealand before travelling to Argentina to play on June 5 and 6.
"It will be important to start strong and sharp in the Pro League with our first three encounters against the top three teams in the world," India head coach Graham Reid said.
"We will be focussing on getting our structures right and honing our set plays as preparation for our Olympic campaign."
"The matches against India are a very important opener. Playing against India at their home ground is challenging no doubt but it is also very exciting because we love playing in Bhubaneswar," Netherlands coach Max Caldas said.
"The players and combinations we wanted to test were experimented during the previous edition of Pro League. This edition we will have our most competitive team as this will be the stepping-stone for us to be the best at Tokyo," he said.
Reid's team will see the return of experienced midfielder Chinglensana Singh Kangujam who has not been in competition since the 9th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship 2019 (A Division) in February where he led the Railways team to victory.
He suffered an ankle fracture in the final that kept him out of action. Young gun Sumit too will make his comeback after he suffered a wrist injury in June during the FIH Men's Series Final where India beat South Africa in the final.
The team which will be led by Manpreet Singh and dragflick sensation Harmanpreet Singh as vice-captain, includes P.R. Sreejesh, Krishan B. Pathak, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar and the experienced Birendra Lakra. Dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma too have received a call-up.
Striker Gurjant Singh has been rewarded with a place in the team for his commitment and hard work shown in the national coaching camp. He will join S.V. Sunil, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh and Kothajit Singh Khadangbam.
Squad: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Harmanpreet Singh (VC), Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Vivek Sagar Prasad, Chinglensana Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Gurjant Singh, S V Sunil. Lalit Kumar Upadhyay. Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam