Asian Champions Trophy: PR Sreejesh to lead Indian hockey team; Birender Lakra returns - Firstpost
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Asian Champions Trophy: PR Sreejesh to lead Indian hockey team; Birender Lakra returns

Bengaluru: Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will lead an 18-member Indian men's hockey team in the fourth Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) to be held in Kuantan, Malaysia, from 20 October.

With an aim to form a group of leaders, Hockey India selectors have named 24-year-old midfielder Manpreet Singh as the vice-captain of the side for this tournament, in place of SV Sunil.

PR Sreejesh captained India at the Rio 2016 for the first time. Getty Images

PR Sreejesh captained India for the first time at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Getty Images

Defender Jasjit Singh Kular returned to the squad and will be expected to double-up as a drag-flicker in place of experienced VR Raghunath, who has been rested for the tournament. Also making a strong comeback to the side after a long injury lay-off is work horse in the backline Birendra Lakra, Lakra, who missed the Rio Olympics due to a knee injury, will form India's defence along side experienced Rupinder Pal Singh, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar and Pardeep Mor.

The midfield will be manned by Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet, Sardar Singh, SK Uthappa and Devindar Walmiki.
The forwardline, however, will miss the services of Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh, both of whom have been given a break. The duo will be replaced by Talwinder Singh and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay.

Besides Sreejesh, the other goalkeeper in the squad is young Akash Chikte.

Scheduled two months after the Rio Olympics, the men's Asian Champions Trophy will see teams from India, Korea, Japan, China, hosts Malaysia and defending champions Pakistan.

"The Asian Champions Trophy is an important tournament for us and going by the world rankings, India will go in as favourites to win the title. The team has been upbeat since their return to the camp after the Olympic Games and are eager
to start the season on a winning note," said chief coach Roelant Oltmans, who is also the high performance director of Hockey India.

Sreejesh, however, refused to take any side lightly and emphasised on playing with caution. "We may be the top-ranked team in Asia right now, but no team can be taken lightly. Defending champions (Pakistan) are known to spring a surprise and Korea too will be a team to watch out for as they have been playing good quality hockey lately," he stated.

Squad: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh (captain), Akash Chikte; Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Pardeep Mor, Jasjit Singh Kular, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar; Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh (vice-captain), Sardar Singh, SK Uthappa, Devindar Walmiki; Forwards: Talwinder Singh, SV Sunil, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Affan Yousuf

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