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New Delhi: Goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh returned to the Indian hockey squad after a gap of eight months as he overcame a knee injury. He was named on Monday in a young squad for the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in New Zealand starting on January 17.
Sreejesh, currently a part of the national camp in Bengaluru, sustained the injury at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in May last year. Veteran midfielder Sardar Singh and forward S.V. Sunil are not part of the squad.
Hockey India selectors took the decision of giving exposure to youngsters ahead of a busy year in which India will play four big tournaments -- Commonwealth Games, FIH Champions Trophy, Asian Games and FIH World Cup. The 29-year-old Sreejesh called it a "new start" and revealed on Twitter that making a comeback was a promise he made to himself.
Sreejesh will be joined by young goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, a member of the 2016 Junior World Cup winning team and who was also part of the India 'A' team at the Australian Hockey League in September 2017.
Young goalkeepers Vikas Dahiya and Akash Chikte, who performed well at the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Bhubaneswar in December, have not been named in the 20-member squad. India will compete with Belgium, Japan and hosts New Zealand at Tauranga and Hamilton.
The team will be led by 25-year-old midfielder Manpreet Singh. Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will be vice captain. New inclusions are forward Dilpreet Singh and midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad. Dilpreet and Vivek were rewarded for their promising performance at the 7th Sultan of Johor Cup last year where the team won the bronze medal. While Vivek had led the team with great determination and played an instrumental role in the midfield, Dilpreet was India's goal-getter with nine goals in six matches.
India's defence features Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar -- all three will double-up as drag-flickers. They will be joined by Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar and Gurinder Singh in the defence.
The midfield will see skipper Manpreet, Chinglensana Singh, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma and Satbir Singh along with debut players Simranjeet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad.
India's attack will see Ramandeep Singh return to the team with Armaan Qureshi, Dilpreet, Mandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay.
"The squad continues to remain a good mix of young and experienced players. They will get to show their abilities against top quality teams. This is an important year for us with major tournaments in the pipeline. One of our focus areas is to perform consistently, especially against higher ranked teams," chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said.
"We use this tour for our preparation for the Commonwealth Games and look at progressing to the next level after the previous two tournaments," he added.
Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (Vice-Captain), Vivek Sagar Prasad, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh and Satbir Singh
Forwards: Dilpreet Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Armaan Qureshi.