Fit-again P.R. Sreejesh made a return after recovering from a long injury lay-off as Hockey India (HI) today announced a 33-member squad for the first national camp beginning here from Thursday.

Sreejesh, who is back after nearly eight months, had suffered a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury during the Azlan Shah tournament earlier last year.

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After ending the year with a bronze medal at the Odisha Hockey World League Final, Indian men’s hockey team will report for the 10-day camp at the Sports Authority of India here to prepare for the busy hockey calendar this season.

Goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak, part of the winning team of 2016 Junior World Cup, finds himself in the group along with Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera who had a promising outing at the Asia Cup and even contributed to India’s success at the Hockey World League Final.

Nilam Sanjeep Xess, the young defender from Sundargarh, Odisha who led the Indian team to U-18 Asia Cup win in 2016, has been elevated to the Senior Core Group.

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He will train alongside stalwart Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh in the back line.

A busy calendar

The line-up of midfielders remains unchanged with Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Sumit, Kothajit Singh, Satbir Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh, Harjeet Singh in the group.

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Young forward Sumit Kumar, who featured in the Indian Junior Men’s Team in 2016, has been included for the camp with seniors’ S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Armaan Qureshi, Affan Yousuf, Talwinder Singh.

The 2018 schedule includes Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April followed by the Champions Trophy at the Netherlands in July, the Jakarta Asian Games in August, Asian Champions Trophy in October and the much-awaited Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar starting in November.

Evaluation of previous tournament top priority

India, however, will begin the season with the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in Tauranga and Hamilton, New Zealand which will see Belgium, Japan and the host in the fray.

“The camp will be short and we need to deal with the players who just played domestic matches which means we need to be careful in training considering we play eight matches in New Zealand,” said Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.

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“Like always, the evaluation of the previous tournament needs to come from the players so that’s the first thing we do when we meet for this camp. I would like to understand what their experience was of the tournament and what they think needs to improve.

“For me, Hockey World League Final gave an insight into what is necessary to improve when we play higher ranked teams and I certainly believe we can do better in our 1 vs 1 defending. In the next tour, this will be one of the key areas we would like to improve,” added the 43-year-old Dutchman.