Dragflicker Varun Kumar was on Wednesday ruled out of India’s FIH Olympic Qualifiers against Russia owing to a shoulder injury and replaced by defender Birender Lakra.

The Indian men’s team will play Russia on November 1 and 2 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. This is the team’s last shot at qualifying

Hockey India announced the replacement for Varun who sustained an injury on his shoulder and right bicep.

“Varun Kumar got injured on Monday while training. He has been receiving treatment since then, but unfortunately, it has not shown enough signs of improvement,” said chief coach Graham Reid. “We have decided to replace him with Birendra Lakra, a class defender with over 170 International caps. He is very experienced and knows well the conditions in Bhubaneswar.”

India’s opponents Russia are ranked 17 places below them and will be eyeing a win over two days to book their place to Tokyo 2020. Having missed out on an automatic qualification spot by winning gold at the Asian Games, Manpreet Singh and Co will look to exert their dominance over Russia.