Experienced drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh Tuesday returned to the Indian men's hockey team, which also features debutant Jaskaran Singh for the tour of Australia, starting May 10. Rupinder is returning to the squad after a long injury lay-off. He last played for India at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta last year. The 18-member squad, announced Tuesday by Hockey India, will be led by mid-fielder Manpreet Singh while Surender Kumar has been named as the vice-captain. The tour, marked as a preparation for next month's Hockey Series Final in Bhubaneswar, will be newly-appointed chief Graham Reid's maiden assignment with the Indian team.
India began the season with a silver medal at the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where a young team with a select few seasoned players were tested against sides like Korea, Japan, Canada, Poland and Malaysia.
In the Australia tour too, India will try youngsters besides testing experienced players ahead of handpicking team for the Hockey Series Final, to be held from June 6 to 15.
PR Sreejesh and Krishan B Pathak are the two goalkeepers, while the backline, which also features Surender, Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Gurinder Singh and Kothajit Singh, will be bolstered by the return of Rupinder. The 25-year-old Jalandhar-born Jaskaran will make his debut in the Indian midfield alongside Hardik Singh, Manpreet, Vivek Sagar Prasad and Nilakanta Sharma.
The forward-line will consist of Akashdeep Singh -- who was rested for the season opener in Ipoh -- along with Armaan Qureshi, Mandeep Singh, Sumit Kumar Jr and Gursahibjit Singh. "This tour will provide me with a great chance to get to know this group of players. It comprises a well-balanced mix, including some younger players, a debutant and a player coming back from a long-term injury," new chief coach Reid said.
"To be able to play four matches against a world-class opposition including a match against club side Western Australia Thundersticks will be a great opportunity to test our players under pressure. It provides the ideal preparation for FIH Men's Hockey Series Final in June," he added.
The tour will feature four matches -- two against Australia national side, one against Australia 'A' and one against Western Australia.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Krishan B Pathak, P R Sreejesh Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar (Vice-Captain), Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Gurinder Singh, Kothajit Singh Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Jaskaran Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Sumit Kumar Jr, Armaan Qureshi.