Ramandeep returns to India squad for FIH Series Finals

Ramandeep, who has been out of action due to a knee injury, has returned after a gap of nine months; Birendra Lakra has been named Manpreet’s deputy.

Forward Ramandeep Singh has been recalled into the 18-member Indian squad for the FIH Series Finals.   -  AFP

Ramandeep Singh returned to national duty for the Hockey Series Finals in Bhubaneswar next month after a nine-month injury-forced break as Hockey India named an 18-member side for the tournament on Tuesday.

The tournament would be the first step for the Indian team towards qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics with the top-two teams from the event assuring themselves of a spot in the Olympic Qualifiers to be held towards the end of 2019.

Ramandeep had to miss out on the Asian Games and World Cup last year after suffering a career-threatening injury during a Champions Trophy game against Pakistan in June 2018. This will be his first international outing since then, having only played the Nationals in the interim.

However, Rupinder Pal Singh continues to be ignored, as does SV Sunil, with time running out for both seniors to return to the national side.

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“We have selected a well-balanced group including Ramandeep Singh, who is returning from injury and Varun Kumar, who was rested for the Australia tour. Sumit and Amit Rohidas too return to bolster our defensive capabilities and our penalty corners. Simranjeet also returns to add flexibility and strike power,” chief coach Graham Reid said.

“The Australia tour made us aware of the level we need to play at to compete with the best teams of the world and we need to aim for that each time we train and each time we play. We are spending a lot of time at the moment on our circle entries, finishing, marking and tackling and we want to see improvements in these areas,” he added.

India will begin its campaign on June 6 against Russia and will be aiming to finish at the top in order to make it for the Olympic qualifying event, which will be held later this year.

Canada and Malaysia are already through to the Qualifiers after ending as finalists at the first HSF earlier this month, while the other two will be known after the 3rd HSF in France later in June. The six teams will be joined by the top four nations from the Pro League with the remaining four spots going to the best ranked nations not having qualified through either of the events or as continental champions.

The Hockey Series Finals, which will be held from June 6-15, will also be the first major competition for Reid since his appointment to the post, a brief tour of Australia notwithstanding. India has been grouped in Pool A alongside Russia, Poland and Uzbekistan while Japan, Mexico, USA and South Africa are in Pool B.

  • Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak
  • Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra (Vice-Captain), Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Gurinder Singh.
  • Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma.
  • Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Simranjit Singh.

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