The Indian men’s hockey team for the FIH Pro League matches against hosts South Africa and France suffered a minor setback with forward Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Jaskaran Singh ruled out due to illness. Standbys Gursahibjit Singh and Sumit have replaced the duo.
The team left for Johannesburg in the early hours of Friday from the Kempegowda International Airport here to participate in the season opener. The Manpreet Singh-led side will play the Pro League games against South Africa and France in Potchefstroom from February 8-13.
Ahead of the departure, chief coach Graham Reid said, “Forward Lalit Upadhyay and Jaskaran Singh will not be joining the team for South Africa. Standbys Sumit will replace Jaskaran in the midfield and Gursahibjit Singh will replace Lalit. Though it is a minor setback, we were always prepared for such a scenario and had the option of having five standbys.”
He added that the India ‘core group’ has enough depth and options, with players capable of performing at the International level. “This is the best part about having a group of 33 players who are all capable of putting up a good show on any given day. They are able to step up and perform for the team. We continue to remain upbeat about our campaign and look forward to some good hockey in Johannesburg,” added Reid.
Skipper Manpreet conceded that while the team will miss Upadhyay and Jaskaran, it was “thrilled” to be travelling once again for competition after the highs of the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think we are all thrilled to be travelling again for some good International hockey. While we will miss Lalit and Jaskaran, the team is well prepared and most importantly we are all hungry for some good matches against South Africa and France. Both South Africa and France are very capable of upsetting any big team of the world and we can’t take them lightly. It will be interesting to see how well we will execute our plans which we have been trying out at the national camp.”
The team will reach Johannesburg via Doha. It will play France in the opener on February 8 and take on South Africa a day later. They will play France again on February 12 and the hosts the following day.
Team: Goalkeepers – PR Sreejesh PR, Krishan Pathak; Defenders — Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Jugraj Singh; Midfielders — Manpreet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad; Forwards — Mandeep Singh, Gursabjit Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Dilpreet Singh, Abhishek.