Reigning player of the year Harmanpreet Singh will lead the hosts as Hockey India on Friday announced the 18-member team who will represent India for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 to be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.

The Indian team grouped in Pool D along with England, Spain and Wales will begin their campaign on 13 January 2023 in the newly built Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela.

Ace drag-flicker Harmanpreet led India at the Pro League this season as well as the tour of Australia. Amit Rohidas has been named vice-captain. The team has been selected after the two-day trials in SAI Centr in Bengaluru where 33 players were put to the test and will be tasked with ending India’s wait to stand on the podium in the prestigious event.

Krishan B Pathak and PR Sreejesh, who will be playing his fourth World Cup and his third on home soil, have been chosen as goalkeepers. Indian team’s defence will be spearheaded by the Captain Harmanpreet along with vice-captain Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh and Nilam Sanjeep Xess.

The midfield will see the return of youngster Vivek Sagar Prasad, who missed the recent tour of Australia as well as the FIH Hockey Pro League due to an ankle injury. He will be joined by Manpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Shamsher Singh and the experienced Akashdeep Singh.

The forwardline will feature Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and youngsters Abhishek and Sukhjeet Singh who continue to impress after making their debuts earlier this year.

The two alternate players chosen are Rajkumar Pal and Jugraj Singh.

Talking about the team selection, chief coach Graham Reid said, “The World Cup is the most important hockey-only tournament there is. A home World Cup puts extra importance and extra pressure on this event like no other. Every country chooses the best team they believe is available to them at the time and tries to provide their team with the best preparation they can. We have also tried to do both with the selection of our Indian World Cup team, choosing a mixture of experienced and younger exciting players who can provide something special.”

The Indian team had a testing tour of Australia where they played in five highly competitive matches, something that Reid banked on in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“We have also had a great preparation over the last two months including a home Pro League series and a very tough tour to Australia against the world’s No 1,” Reid added. “We are looking forward to getting to Odisha and put the finishing touches to our preparations for what will be an exciting and challenging tournament ahead.”

From the squad that was named for the tour of Australia, defenders Jugraj Singh (alternate) and Mandeep Mor have missed the cut. Among midfielders, Gurjant Singh, Mohd. Raheel Mouseen and Rajkumar Pal (alternate) are missing out while forward Dilpreet Singh is also absent. Lalit Kumar Upadhyay makes a comeback into the scheme of things along with Vivek.

Abhishek, who was brought into the senior squad at the start of 2022, has cemented his place in the first squad and finds himself in the final 18 for the tournament.

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India will begin their World Cup campaign against Spain on 13th January in Rourkela followed by their second pool D match against England. They will move to Bhubaneswar to play their third pool match against Wales. The knockout stage will begin with crossover matches on 22nd and 23rd January and the Quarterfinals on 25th and Semifinals on 27th January. The Bronze Medal match and the Final will be held on 29th January.

India’s squad for the World Cup

Goalkeepers: Krishan Bahadur Pathak, PR Sreejesh

Defenders: Jarmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh (Captain), Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas (Vice Captain), Nilam Sanjeep Xess

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Shamsher Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Akashdeep Singh

Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Abhishek, Sukhjeet Singh

Alternate players: Rajkumar Pal, Jugraj Singh