BHUBANESWAR: Hockey India on Thursday named the 18-member Indian junior men's squad who will defend the title at the much-awaited FIH Odisha Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar. The megaevent is slated to begin on November 24 and will witness 16 top teams from across the globe vie for the honours which was previously won by India in 2016.
The Indian junior men's team will see Vivek Sagar Prasad, who was part of India's historic Olympic bronze medal feat, captain the squad while defender Sanjay who was part of the India U-18 team that won silver at the Youth Olympic Games 2018 in Buenos Aires will shoulder the responsibility of vice-captain.
The 18-member team includes Shardanand Tiwari, Prashant Chauhan, Sudeep Chirmako, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Maninder Singh, Pawan, Vishnukant Singh, Ankit Pal, Uttam Singh, Sunil Jojo, Manjeet, Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem, Abhishek Lakra, Yashdeep Siwach, Gurmukh Singh and Araijeet Singh Hundal.
Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem and Boby Singh Dhami have been chosen as alternate players who will be allowed to play only if there is an injury or someone in the 18-member squad is ruled out of the tournament due to COVID-19.
Speaking about the team selection, chief coach, Graham Reid in a statement said, "To choose the best 18 players to represent their country is one of the hardest things to do in sport. Each of these guys have put their everything into trying to make this team for the last 12-18 months."
"Through COVID, through sanctions and lockdowns, huge sacrifices have been made. We have chosen a group of 20 players, a team of 18 and 2 alternate players who we believe gives us the best chance of defending our title as Junior World Cup Champions. It is a well-balanced side with a lot of flexibility and flare. The key to these guys performing on the big stage will be to trust in each other and trust in their preparation," the coach added.
Reid also spoke of the team's ongoing preparations in Bhubaneswar where they are putting in the hard yards needed to succeed in the tournament. "The players have been thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to train for the last few days at Kalinga Hockey Stadium which has become an icon in our sport," the coach said.
He added that even though the ground will be empty, the Olympics have proven that the spectacle of hockey can still be enjoyed by everyone involved. India begin the campaign on November 24 against France. They will take on Canada the next day in their second match in the round-robin league, followed by their match against Poland on November 27.
The knockout matches will take place between December 1 and 5 as the teams will look to become the Champions of the prestigious quadrennial event. The other teams in the fray include Belgium, The Netherlands, Argentina, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Korea, Malaysia, Poland, France, Chile, Spain and USA.
Vivek Sagar Prasad (C) Shardanand Tiwari, Prashant Chauhan (GK), Sanjay (VC), Sudeep Chirmako, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Maninder Singh, Pawan (GK), Vishnukant Singh, Ankit Pal, Uttam Singh, Sunil Jojo, Manjeet, Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem, Abhishek Lakra, Yashdeep Siwach, Gurmukh Singh, Araijeet Singh Hundal.