Raj Kumar Pal set for trial by fire against Belgium

The up-and-coming Indian hockey player will be the sole newcomer in the Manpreet Singh-led squad in Bhubaneswar.

By Olympic Channel Writer ·

After a productive maiden start in the FIH Pro League season saw the Indian hockey men's team defeat the Netherlands 5-2, 3-3 (3-1) last month, the squad will head back to Bhubaneswar to take on world no. 1 Belgium, this time with newcomer Raj Kumar Pal in tow.

As per Monday's announcement, Manpreet Singh will lead the 24-man squad with Harmanpreet Singh to serve as vice-captain in the two matches against Belgium.

A promising newcomer

Midfielder Raj Kumar Pal has put in some impressive performances on his way up the ladder, with his stint with the India Colts team last season standing out in particular, as they won the silver medal at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia.

Speaking to the Press Trust of India, Chief Coach Graham Reid explained the rationale behind the selection.

"Raj Kumar has been rewarded for his outstanding form in the recent camps and named in the squad,” he said. “He possesses extraordinary skills and speed, which if given the opportunity will excel against the world no. 1 Belgium."

Fine-tuning for Tokyo 2020

Aside from Raj Kumar Pal, the team includes seasoned veterans such as PR Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh.

With the 2020 Olympics drawing near, Graham Reid, who was impressed with the team's ability to take risks at their previous outing, touched upon the benefits of participating in the FIH Pro League during the Olympic year.

“The objective of these matches of the FIH Hockey Pro League is to find the balance between giving players opportunities for Olympic selection, working out our strongest combinations and continuing to demonstrate that we can compete with the best teams in the world,” he stated.

Belgium are so far undefeated in their four matches in the 2020 FIH Pro League season and India will face them on February 8 and 9 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Squad: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Chinglensana Singh, Raj Kumar Pal, Dilpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Kothajit Singh Kadangbam, Birendra Lakra, Nilakanta Sharma, Gurjant Singh, SV Sunil.