The Manpreet Singh-led Indian men’s hockey team will start their much-awaited Olympic Games campaign as they take on New Zealand in their first Pool A match on Saturday.
There is much hope riding on this team, which is seen as capable of finally ending India’s 41-year-old wait for a medal in a sport they once dominated. India have failed to reach the semi-finals since the gold medal at the 1980 Rome Olympics, and hit the lowest of lows in 2012 when the team finished last (12th) at the London Games.
This time around, they would look to reach the semis at least but grouped along with the defending Olympic Champions Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan, World No 4 India’s task will be cut out to ensure a spot in the quarter-final.
In the last few years, the Indian team has achieved important milestones, including winning the Asia Cup in 2017, claiming the Asian Champions Trophy in 2018 as well as winning the FIH Series Final in 2019 over the past four years. India also reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar and performed exceedingly well in the FIH Hockey Pro League under Manpreet before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule.
Here’s a closer look at the Indian men’s squad for Tokyo Olympics:
Indian men's hockey squad for Tokyo 2020
|PR Sreejesh||Rupinder Pal Singh||Manpreet Singh (C)||Dilpreet Singh|
|Surender Kumar||Hardik Singh||Gurjant Singh|
|Harmanpreet Singh||Sumit||Mandeep Singh|
|Birendra Lakra||Nilakanta Sharma||Lalit Upadhyay|
|Amit Rohidas||Vivek Prasad||Shamsher Singh|
Dilpreet Singh – Forward
The 21-year-old Dilpreet Singh plays as a forward for the Indian naonal team. Dilpreet is a prolific goalscorer who combines his pace with his excellent posional awareness in the final third of the field. Dilpreet was a part of Junior Men’s Team in the 2017 Sultan of Johor Cup where he finished as the joint-leading marksman of the compeon with 9 goals to his name. This stellar performance saw him earn his first call-up to the senior side for the 4 Naons Invitaonal Tournament in New Zealand in January 2018. Dilpreet made his senior internaonal debut in this compeon as an 18-year-old and finished as the leading goal-scorer of the compeon with 3 goals to his name. Less than five months aer his debut, Dilpreet was named in the 2018 Commonwealth Games Squad as well as the Asian Games in Jakarta- Palembang and Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018. Dilpreet’s rise to the highest level has been fast tracked, and his talent has been recognised by several senior coaches across the board, as he is touted to be a star for the future for the Indian men’s hockey.
Rupinder Pal Singh – Defender
Fondly known as ‘Bob’ by his teammates, Rupinder is one of the most lethal drag flickers in the world. The lanky defender made his internaonal debut in 2010 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament held in Ipoh, where India clinched the Gold. In the next edion of the same event, he bagged his first internaonal hat-trick against Great Britain, and won the top-scorer of the tournament award. The experienced defender was named vice captain of the 2014 Men’s Hockey World Cup team and he was also part of 2014 Commonwealth Games Silver Medal- winning side. He has featured regularly on the Indian team’s historic wins, which includes the 2014 Asian Games triumph and the Gold Medal-winning 2016 Asian Champions Trophy campaign. Rupinder has had a topsy-turvy journey as he was dropped from the team for the 2018 Champions Trophy squad, but was called back for the 2018 Asian Games, where he made a solid comeback to the side by scoring a marvellous hat-trick against Sri Lanka and the team went on to clinch the Bronze Medal.
Surender Kumar – Defender
Having played as many as 135 internaonal matches so far, Surender Kumar has been one of the key figures in the Indian defence. The Karnal-born player progressed through the ranks of the junior team set-up where he made his debut in 2012 and was a part of the 2013 FIH Junior Men’s World Cup squad. The 27-year-old made his debut for the Senior team at the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy in 2013, a series of solid performances in the Hockey India League and domesc circuit helped him cement his place in the Senior Team, and since then he has parcipated in almost all the major tournaments including 2016 Rio Olympics, Hero Men’s Asia Cup 2017, FIH Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy 2018 and 2018 Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar. Surender has also been a part of India’s various memorable moments such as – Bronze Medal-winning campaign at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang, Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 glory and the Gold Medal-winning campaign at the FIH Series Finals 2019 in Bhubaneswar.
Manpreet Singh (C) – Midfielder
The Indian skipper Manpreet Singh made his internaonal debut in 2011 at the age of 19, and his first big tournament as member of the senior team was the 2012 London Olympics. He has since represented the country at all major tournaments and featured in India’s fine victories which includes the Gold Medal in Asian Games in 2014. The midfielder was also a part of the Silver Medal-winning Indian team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In 2017, he was made the Captain of the naonal team and went on to lead the team to various historic moments, such as– Gold Medal at the Hero Asia Cup 2017 and the Bronze Medal at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017. Under his Captaincy, India won a Gold Medal at the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy. He also led the team to a Quarter-Final finish at the coveted Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. In the same year, he was conferred with the Arjuna Award. Manpreet was FIH Player of the Year in 2019.
Hardik Singh – Midfielder
Hockey is in the genes of Hardik Singh. From his father to his uncle and aunt everyone has played hockey for the country. He honed his skills under his uncle Jugraj Singh, the former Indian drag-flicker. His other uncle Gurmail Singh was part of the 1980 Summer Olympics where India clinched the historic Gold Medal. While his aunt Rajbir Kaur, who is married to Gurmail Singh, was the former women’s team Captain. The 22-year-old midfielder made his internaonal debut with the Senior Team at the 2018 Hero Asian Champions Trophy where India clinched Gold medal. He was also selected for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 on the back of his performance in his debut tournament. Aer having played at the World Cup, Hardik became a regular feature in the team’s midfield and was a part of India’s Gold medal- winning feat at the 2019 FIH Men’s Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, as well a part of 2019 Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers.
Gurjant Singh – Forward
26-year-old forward Gurjant Singh hails from Punjab, and is a product of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy. His style of play is characterised by his versality as he is capable of performing different roles to good effect according to the needs of his team. Since his early days when he was coming up the ranks in the Junior Naonals circuit, Gurjant is known as a big game player because of his knack for making telling contribuons on the big occasion. He solidified this reputaon as he opened the scoring for India in the Semi Final and Final of the 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup on road to India’s victory in the tournament. Gurjant used this plaorm as a stepping stone to cement his place in the senior team, for whom he has regularly featured since he made his internaonal debut against Belgium in 2017. Gurjant has been a key part of the team that won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Men’s Hockey Asia Cup and the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy.
Simranjeet Singh – Forward
The 24-year-old forward Simranjeet Singh hails from Punjab. He is a product of the Surjit Singh Hockey Academy and represents the state of Punjab in the domesc circuit. The forward impressed the selectors with his exploits in the Naonal Championship in 2014 and was hence selected to be a part of the squad that took part in the FIH Junior Men’s World Cup 2016 where the team won the Gold medal. Consistent performances with the Junior team made sure that he was given his Senior Team debut in early 2018 during the 4 Naons Invitaonal Tournament in New Zealand. He has since been involved in India’s Silver medal winning campaign at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018 and was also part of the squad for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, in 2019 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, and the FIH Men’s Series Finals in Bhubaneswar in 2019.
Mandeep Singh – Forward
One of the youngest to break into the Indian team, Mandeep Singh has been a delight to watch in the forward-line. His unconvenonal ways of creang scoring opportunies make him a standout member in India’s forward-line. It was his snt at Hockey India League, during the 2012-13 season that saw him emerge as a potenal star. He made his Internaonal debut in 2013 at the Hockey World League Round 2 and since has been the regular feature in the team’s aack. He was also part of the Indian Team’s historic Junior World Cup victory in 2016. Earlier that year, Mandeep featured in India’s Silver Medal win at the 36th FIH Champions Trophy. He was part of the team that won the Bronze Medal at Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017 and completed his 100 Internaonal Caps for India during the Commonwealth Games 2018. He was also a part of the team that won the Silver Medal at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018. He was part of India’s Bronze medal feat the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang and was also part of the Indian Team that lied the Hero Asian Champions Trophy jointly with Pakistan. The young forward was also involved with the team that took part at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. He was conferred with the Hockey India Dhanraj Pillay Award for Forward of the Year 2019.
Harmanpreet Singh (VC) – Defender
Harmanpreet Singh is arguably one of the best drag-flickers in the world. He made his internaonal debut in 2015 during a four-match Series against Japan in Bhubaneswar. However, the defender’s next call up to the naonal side was in 2016 during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where India won the Silver Medal. Harmanpreet won another Silver Medal with the naonal team at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2016 and in the same year he represented the country at the Rio Olympics at the age of just 20. Being an integral part of the team, the 25-year-old defender has won– Gold Medal at the Hero Asia Cup 2017, Bronze Medal at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017 and the Silver medal at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018. The young gun was named as the 2018 Promising Player of the Year by Asian Hockey Federaon. He also played a pivotal role in India’s Gold-Medal winning campaign at the FIH Men’s World Series Finals as well as 2019 Olympic Qualifiers. He was also conferred with the Hockey India Pargat Singh Award for Defender of the Year 2019.
Lalit Upadhyay – Forward
The 27-year-old forward Lalit Upadhyay hails from Varanasi in Uar Pradesh. Lalit made his internaonal debut for India in the 2014 Hockey World Cup. His finest contribuon for India in a major tournament came in 2017, when he scored four goals on road to India’s victory in the Asia Cup in Dhaka, including the winning goal in the Final against Malaysia. He was also part of the Indian team that won the Bronze Medal at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017 and the Silver Medal at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018. Lalit’s consistent performances since 2017 have seen him represent the country at some major tournaments. He was a part of the team which won the Bronze Medal at the 2018 Asian Games, Gold Medal at the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy 2018. The forward from Varanasi, Uar Pradesh also took part in his second Men’s World Cup at the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup Odisha 2018 where India were defeated in the quarter-finals. He achieved the milestone of compleng 100 internaonal caps for the country during India’s clash against Russia in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in 2019.
PR Sreejesh – Goalkeeper
India’s custodian PR Sreejesh is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Sreejesh made his debut for the senior naonal team in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka, and has been an integral part of the naonal team since 2011, the year in which he made two match winning saves in the Final of the Asian Champions Trophy against Pakistan. He was also named as the “Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament” at the 2013 Asia Cup where India won the Silver Medal. In 2014, he won the “Goalkeeper of the Tournament” award in the Champions Trophy and saved two Penalty Strokes in the 2014 Asian Games Final against Pakistan which ensured his team won the Gold Medal. The veteran custodian from Kerala born, was given the dues of the Captain in 2016 and led the team to a historic Silver Medal at the FIH Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy in London 2016, also he led India to another Silver Medal at the same tournament in 2018 held in Breda. Sreejesh was also Captain of the India side that won Bronze Medal in 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang. He has been a part of all major tournaments, including 2014 & 2018 Hockey Men’s World Cup and 2012 & 2016 Olympic Games. He was also conferred with Arjuna Award in 2015 & the presgious Padma Shri Award in 2017.
Sumit – Midfielder
India’s midfielder Sumit made his debut for the senior naonal team at the 2017 Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. He was a part of the junior team that clinched FIH Men’s Junior World Cup in 2016. He also got a chance to represent India at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and Odisha Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. He was a part of the team which clinched Bronze medal in the Men’s Hockey World League Final, Bhubaneswar in the year 2017. Sumit was a part of the Gold Medal-winning team at the 2017 Asia Cup as well as the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy. He has also represented India at the FIH Men’s Series Finals in Bhubaneswar 2019 where India clinched Gold.
Nilakanta Sharma – Midfielder
Closely following the footsteps of his senior state-mates Kothajit Singh and Chinglensana Singh, Nilakanta le home when he was just 16, and moved to Bhopal to pursue his passion. The Imphal-born player was part of the 2015 Junior Asia Cup Gold Medal winning and 2016 Junior World Cup winning team. He made his senior naonal debut against Belgium during India’s Europe tour in 2017 and also represented India A at the Australia Hockey League later that year. He was a part of the 2018 Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat where the team lied the tle as joint-winners with Pakistan, and was selected to be a part of the team that took part in the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. In 2019, He also won the Gold medal at the FIH Men’s Series Final held in Bhubaneswar 2019 and also took part in the 2019 Olympic qualifies.
Shamsher Singh – Forward
The 23-year-old Shamsher Singh hails from Punjab, and plays as a forward for the Indian naonal team. He made his internaonal debut for the naonal senior team at the 2019 Men’s Ready Steady Tokyo Hockey Tournament. Shamsher is a versale player, capable of playing up front or in midfield. He learnt his trade at the Surjit Singh Hockey Academy in Jalandhar, from where a number of India’s current senior crop hail.
Varun Kumar – Defender
Varun Kumar is one of the most promising talents to emerge from India’s victorious Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup 2016 side. A product of Surjit Hockey Academy, Varun, during his debut for the junior team was the highest goal-scorer at the 2016 Four Naons Invitaonal Tournament in Spain.Later in 2017, the 25- year-old defender made his internaonal debut at the Europe Tour of Belgium and Netherlands. He was a part of the team that won the Gold medal at the Hero Asia Cup in 2017, Bronze medal at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, Silver medal at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018, Bronze at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang and also lied the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 as joint winners with Pakistan. He played one of the key roles in helping team clinch the Gold medal at FIH Men’s Series Finals 2019 held in Bhubaneswar. He was the top goal-scorer (6 goals) of the tournament. Varun also played his first World Cup with the Senior Team when he represented the country at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018.
Birender Lakra (VC) – Defender
Having made his Senior team debut in the South Asian Games in 2010, Birendra is one of the experienced players in the current Indian set-up. The defender, who hails from the state of Odisha, started playing in the Junior Naonal Championship at the age of 14 while represenng the SAIL Hockey Academy in 2004 and went on to represent India at the Champions Challenge tournament in South Africa in 2011, the SAAF Games at Dhaka in 2010, the Youth Olympics at Sydney in 2009, and the Junior World Cup at Singapore in 2009. The experienced defender was part of the Indian team that won Gold at the 2014 Asian Games, and Silver at the Commonwealth Games 2014. Birendra has represented India at various marquee tournaments such as 2012 Olympic Games and FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2018.
Amit Rohidas – Defender
Amit Rohidas, who honed his hockey skills at Panposh Sports Hostel, Rourkela, made his India debut at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2013 in Malaysia. He was also a part of the 2013 Men’s Asia Cup squad which won the Silver Medal. Amit, who hails from Sundargarh, represented India at the 2013 FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup held in New Delhi. He also played at the 2014 Hockey Men’s World League Final, but couldn’t cement his place in the team. However, aer having proved his mele in the Hockey India League, the defender finally made a comeback to the naonal side in 2017 and impressed everyone with his defensive dues. He became a part of the Gold Medal-winning team at Hero Asia Cup 2017, Bronze Medal-winning side at the Odisha Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, and Silver Medal-winning team at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy 2018. A preferred first-rusher in PC defending for India, Amit, who has been a regular feature, also got a chance to play the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018.
Vivek Sagar Prasad – Midfielder
The young gun, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, was named as the Captain of the Indian Junior Men’s Hockey team which took part at the 2017 Sultan of Johor Cup, where he led his side to the Bronze Medal. He also led the team to a Silver Medal at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic games held in Buenos Aires. Aer his marvellous performances with the Junior team, Vivek was called up for the Senior Naonal Camp in Bengaluru, and was picked up for the team’s Four Naons Invitaonal Tournament in New Zealand in 2018. He became the second-youngest player ever to debut for India at 17 years, 10 months and 22 days. He was a part of Silver Medal winning team at the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy in Breda, and the Bronze Medal at the 2018 Asian Games. Being a part of the Gold Medal winning team at 2019 FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, Vivek was named the Best Youngest Player at the Tournament and later that year he also won the 2019 FIH Men’s Rising Star of the Year award and also conferred with Hockey India Jugraj Singh award for Upcoming Player of the Year 2019(Under-21).
With inputs from Hockey India
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