Hockey India on Tuesday announced an 18-member Indian squad for the FIH Men’s Series Finals to be held in Bhubaneswar in June.

The team will be led by Manpreet Singh with Birendra Lakra being named as the vice-captain. A notable addition in the squad is that of forward Ramandeep Singh who returns having recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of action for nine months.

In defence, Amit Rohidas returns to the fold in place of Kothajit Singh, while Simranjit Singh finds a place among the forwards at the expense of Armaan Qureshi. Rupinder Pal Singh who was brought back to the side by coach Graham Reid for the Australia tour retains his place in the side.

Varun Kumar, who was rested for the Australian tour, while midfielder Sumit also returns to the team.

“We have selected a well-balanced group including Ramandeep Singh, who is returning from injury and Varun Kumar who was rested for the Australian tour.

“Sumit and Amit Rohidas too return to bolster our defensive capabilities and our Penalty Corner. Simranjeet also returns to add some flexibility and strike power to the forward-line,” said Reid.

India begin their campaign on June 6 against Russia and will be aiming to finish on the top in order to make it for the Olympic qualifying event to be held later this year. “I am very much looking forward to my first FIH tournament as chief coach of the Indian team. The Series Finals is an important step in the Olympic qualification process,” expressed Reid.

Speaking about India’s preparedness for the tournament, Reid said, “Our focus for the tournament will be consistency of performance. To achieve this will we need to respect every opposition and give our 100 percent every quarter, each half, each game. Our goal will be to be the best team we can be.”

He further added that the team’s emphasis at the moment is on circle entries, finishing, tight marking and tackling. “

“The Australian tour made us very 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, our finishing, tight marking and tackling and we want to see improvements in these areas. PCs are also important and we have chosen three drag-flickers to use during the tournament,” said Reid.

India have been grouped in Pool A along with Russia, Poland and Uzbekistan while Japan, Mexico, USA and South Africa are grouped in Pool B.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Krishan B Pathak, PR Sreejesh

Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra (Vice-Captain), Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas

Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma

Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Simranjit Singh, Ramandeep Singh

With PTI inputs