The Indian men's team has been clubbed alongside Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan in Pool A.
The 29-year old skipper is a natural leader, having captained the national side at the junior World Cup as well but he broke into the senior side much before that. The gifted midfielder from Punjab made his international debut at the age of 19 and is considered one of the best playmakers in the world. He also became the first Indian to be named FIH player of the year in 2020 and will be participating in his third Olympics in Tokyo. Ability to find gaps through the opposition defence and slice through them with impeccable ball control are his biggest strengths.
As the seniormost and most experienced player in the team, Sreejesh will be vital to the team’s performance in Tokyo in his third Olympics. Captain in 2016 and the lone goalkeeper in the side, the 33-year-old from Kerala made his international debut in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka. He had to wait till the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011 to break into the spotlight but since then has been the first choice over years. A crowd favourite for his spontaneous interactions with the public, his flexibility, reading of the game and ability to stay non-committal till the end are considered his biggest strengths on field and remains the team’s biggest motivator off it.
Another of those players who made his senior team debut while being part of the junior set-up, Harmanpreet Singh is one of the five players from the side that lifted the 2016 Junior World Cup at home. Before that, though, he had already participated on the biggest stage, being part of the Rio Olympics squad. The stocky 25-year old defender is crucial to the team’s fortunes both for his drag-flicks skills and solid defending. Not too effusive and outspoken, he has improved tremendously over years and is now the main penalty corner expert in the side and a key member of the side.
Rupinder Pal Singh
The 31-year old defender was the numero uno dragflicker of the side till Harmanpreet stepped up. Also one of the most experienced players in the side having made his international debut in 2010, this will be his second Olympics. A key member of the team till 2018, he was out of favour for a while after the 2018 Asian Games as the team went through an overhauling before returning to national side in 2019. Rupinder has worked on his defensive skills and brought in variations to his flicks to stay ahead of the game and his experience and height will be key to the team’s backline.
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One of the pillars of the Indian defence, Surender came into the spotlight through the Hockey India League where he made people take notice with the Delhi Waveriders side, so much so that the franchise retained him ahead of stars like Sardar Singh. Quiet, unassuming and hardworking, the 27-year old late bloomer from Haryana was rewarded with inclusion in the national camp and hasn’t looked back since then, being part of the Asian Games and the Rio Olympics and a core member of the side now. His defensive skills are impeccable, interceptions clean enough to hardly concede penalty corners and will be the last line of defence before the goalkeeper.
Despite an early international debut way back in 2013, Amit Rohidas had to wait for almost three years to be a regular member of the side. He was part of almost all the big events that year including the Asia Cup and the Junior World Cup but the presence of senior defenders in the side meant he had to bide his time. The 28-year old from Odisha was constantly in the national camp but had to wait till 2017 to prove himself all over again in the Hockey India League. Since then, though, he has been constantly proving himself in the defence and also doubles up for penalty corners occasionally. Also a dependable rusher in PC defences.
One of the few players in the side with more than 200 international caps, Birendra Lakra will be playing his second Olympics after 2012 and was unlucky to miss the Rio edition due to a serious knee injury and subsequent surgery. The 31-year old from the hockey nursery of Sundergarh in Odisha has been part of almost all major campaigns including the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cup. Although designated a defender, Lakra has the ability to play upfront in the middle as well, creating openings and his runs down the sideline play a big role in creating opening for the forwards.
The 22-year-old is one of the debutants in the Tokyo Olympics side and will be keen to prove his selection. Having made his international debut only in 2018 at the Champions Trophy, Hardik has been fast-tracked as a key member of the team in a short period. He was part of the probables for the 2016 Junior World Cup under Harendra Singh but could not make the final cut. The lanky midfielder comes from a hockey family, related to former women’s captain Rajbir Rai and star Jugraj Singh and will be hoping to continue the impressive lineage.
Vivek Sagar Prasad
An extremely talented midfielder whose biggest strength is his intelligence and reading of the game. Add his speed and extreme control on the ball and he is the complete package in the crucial role of a playmaker. A product of the MP Hockey Academy mentored by World Cup winner Ashok Kumar, Vivek became the second-youngest Indian player to make his international debut in 2018 at the age 17. Led the team to silver at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and won the FIH Rising Star of the Year award in 2020. Despite his youth, he has the experience of playing some big events including the 2018 Asian Games and will be critical to set up an inexperienced forward line at Tokyo.
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Another from the batch of 2016 Junior World Cup to make a successful transition to the senior side, Nilakanta Sharma from Manipur had to wait for another two years after that triumph to make the cut for the senior side. Since 2018, however, he has been part of all major events including the World Cup and the now-defunct Champions Trophy. The 26-year old is a midfielder who can easily make his way to upfront, wrongfoot his markers and score goals on his own when he is not setting them up.
The 24-year old from Kurad village in Sonepat made his senior international debut in 2017 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and soon made himself indispensable. Part of the 2016 Junior World Cup winning team, Sumit is the first player from his village to make the Indian team in hockey. Coming up the hard way fighting poverty and lack of facilities, Sumit’s biggest strength is his stamina – he is one of the hardest workers during training and runs the most on field, marshalling the entire length from one end to the other and will be looking forward to his first Olympics.
One of the surp[rise packages in the Olympic side, Shamsher only made his debut at the Olympic test event in 2019. The 24-year old from Punjab will be the first Olympian hockey player from the border town of Attari. With less that 10 international matches under his belt and little experience, Shamsher is expected to be the unknown trump card for the Indian team in the forward line.
Making his debut on the New Zealand tour in 2018, the 20-year old did enough to impress the coaches enough to be a part of all three major events in the year -- Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup. Despite lack of experience, the young striker is highly rated and has been marked out as one for the future. A product of the famous Surjit Hockey Academy in Jalandhar, the youngster was constantly a part of the Indian junior squad on tours but failed to make it to the final World Cup squad in 2016. Now, however, his scoring will be vital to India’s fortunes.
The 26-year old became an overnight star with his goals during the Junior World Cup semifinal and final in 2016 at home. He soon made the transition to the senior side but hampered by injuries and indifferent form, kept moving in and out of the national side after the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He made his return to the national team with the Pro League in the beginning of 2020, scoring the fastest international goal by an Indian in 13 seconds and has been going strong since then. His one-touch shots at goal and poaching skills inside the circle will be critical in an inexperienced forward line.
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Lalit Kumar Upadhyay
From the city of Varanasi, Lalit had Mohd. Shahid to look up to for an idol. The 27-year old, impressive in junior and age group tournaments, however had to contend with unwarranted controversy and being ignored for a few years, for no fault of his, before being recognised again and brought into the national set up. He is now one of the two experienced faces in the Indian attack and his ability to wrong-foot and dodge an opponent, accelerate suddenly when needed and keep an eye on the whole field ahead will be crucial to India scoring.
At 26, Mandeep is the leader of the attack pack in the Indian side for Tokyo Olympics. He first played for India at the Junior Asia Cup in 2012 and soon graduated to the senior league, making his international debut at the 2013 Hockey World league. Since then, he has been a constant in the side with more than 150 international caps and been part of every major outing barring the Rio Olympics. His ability to find the net from acute angles and be an opportunistic poacher inside the circle is his biggest advantage.