Having missed the FIH Series Finals and the Olympic Test Event in the last few months, one of India’s senior defenders and drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh has been called back into the national team for their tour of Belgium starting later this month.
Rupinder, along with Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, return to the side that featured at the Olympic Test event in Tokyo in August.
While youngster Krishan Phatak will be the deputy to Sreejesh, Rupinder will have the likes of vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar and Surender Kumar marshalling the defence by his side.
“All the players in the squad complement each other very well and we are hoping that the team continues its good form,” head coach Graham Reid said about the 20-member squad that will play in Antwerp from September 26 to October 3.
“We are delighted to have Lalit back in the squad as he will play a vital role in the forward line. It's fantastic to have Rupinder in the side as well, he has improved his game since the Series Finals Bhubaneswar. We are still looking to fine-tune a few aspects of our game before we leave for Belgium,” he added.
Onus on Manpreet
Skipper Manpreet Singh will carry the responsibility of being the creative man in a midfield that features a slew of hungry youngsters like Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad and Nilakanta Sharma.
The forwards, meanwhile, have settled in well as Reid has retained a similar bunch that turned up at the Test Event and the FIH Series Finals earlier this year.
Preparing for the qualifiers
Along with the returning Upadhyay, forwards Mandeep Singh, SV Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Akashdeep Singh will look for some valuable game time ahead of the Olympic qualifier against Russia in Odisha.
The Indian team is slated to play three matches against Belgium and two matches against Spain in what is expected to be a demanding tour, according to Reid.
"Belgium are a strong team and if we perform well against them at their own backyard then the team will gain a lot of confidence ahead of the Olympic qualifier," the Australian said. "This tour of Belgium will serve as the perfect preparation before the all-important qualifiers. We are expecting a tough challenge from Spain as well."