Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Two players from Odisha, Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas have been selected in the 18-member Hockey team for FIH series scheduled to begin at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar from June 6.

The Indian team will be led by skipper Manpreet Singh while Birendra Lakra will hold the backline as the vice-captain. Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas and Gurinder Singh will form the defence.

PR Sreejesh and Krishan B Pathak have been included in the team as the shot stoppers. In the midfield, captain Manpreet will play a key role along with youngsters Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Sumit and Nilakanta Sharma.

Striker Ramandeep Singh who has been out of action following a severe knee injury after FIH finals in Breda last year has returned to the frontline. He will join Mandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Akashdeep Singh to form the attack line.

India which has been placed in Group A of the final stage of the 2018-19 Hockey Series edition, will begin its campaign with the first match against Russia. The hosts have been categorised along with Poland, Russia and Uzbekistan in Pool A. Similarly, South Africa, Japan, USA and Mexico have been placed in Pool B.

India will hope to finish the event top of the pile in order to easily proceed to the qualifiers for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
"We tried to pick the best possible team. It is a well balanced side as we have brought back some experienced and young players," Graham Reid, chief coach of the Indian Men's Hockey Team.

" The tournament is important for us as it will help us to qualify for the Olympics. Our confidence level is high and we will focus on every game," said Manpreet Singh, captain of India men's Hockey Team.

" Our main target in the tournament will be to convert all the chance into goals and make our defence more strong, " Manpreet added.

"The team is good as it consists both young and senior players. The video footages of the last matches are being analysed and we are focusing on how to score goals in last moments," said Birendra Lakra, vice-captain of the team.