Rupinder Pal Singh made a long-delayed return to national duty after being named in the Indian hockey side for the upcoming Belgium tour on Friday.
The experienced defender and drag-flicker, whose last major outing was the 2018 Asian Games before being relegated to the sidelines, was included in the 20-member squad for the five-match series, the last outing for the team before the Olympic Qualifiers in November.
In between, he was tested on the Australia tour in May – the first assignment for chief coach Graham Reid – and scored twice in five games before being ignored again. The 28-year old, who looked to be at crossroads in his career since being ignored in the overhaul of the Indian team after the Asiad disappointment, would be among the seniormost players on the tour and would be attempting to impress the team management enough for a shot at the Qualifiers.
Also coming back after a long hiatus would be forward Lalit Upadhyay, who last played during the World Cup in December 2018 before picking up a back strain that sidelined him for more than eight months. Midfielder Chinglenana Singh, however, continues to recover from an ankle injury.
“All the players complement each other very well and we are hoping the team continues its good form. We are delighted to have Lalit Upadhyay back as he will play a vital role in the forward line. It’s fantastic to have Rupinder back as well. We are still looking to fine-tune a few aspects of our game before we leave for Belgium,” chief coach Graham Reid said.
“We have chosen a strong experienced group in what will be quite a full match schedule. Besides the five games, there will also be a full-training day with the Dutch team and it is the perfect preparation for the Qualifiers.
“Belgium are a strong team and if we perform well against them in their own backyard the team will gain a lot of confidence ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers against Russia. We are expecting a tough challenge from Spain as well,” he added.
The five-match series, to be played from September 26-October 3, would see the Indians take on reigning World and European champion Belgium in three games and play two against European runner-up Spain.
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