Manpreet, Sunil: 5 Indian Players to Look Out for in Asia Cup
With senior players like SV Sunil and Sardar Singh back, India seem determined to retain their top spot in Asia.
Despite a sudden sacking of their coach and a few missing senior players, the Indian hockey team seem determined on retaining their numero uno position in the continent.
Entering the ongoing Asia Cup as the top ranked team, India beat Japan 5-1 in their opening game in Dhaka on Thursday.
Post a poor campaign at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Hockey World League Semi-Final, Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans was sacked from his post after a four-year tenure. He was replaced by the senior women’s team coach Sjoerd Marijne, who undertook a six-week national camp with High-Performance Director David John in the run up to the tournament.
Though penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh and senior goalkeeper PR Sreejesh are injured, SV Sunil, Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Akashdeep Singh – who were rested for the tour of Europe – are back in the squad.
Ahead of their matches against Bangladesh on 13 October and Pakistan on 15 October, here’s a look at 5 players from the Indian squad to look out for in this tournament.
Manpreet Singh (Midfielder)
Quick and feisty on the field, Manpreet Singh has been leading the senior men’s team since the Hockey World League Semi-Final in June after PR Sreejesh was ruled out due to a knee injury.
Since his international debut in 2011, the 25-year-old has been a consistent part of the Indian squad and forms the Indian midfield with Chinglensana, Sardar Singh, SK Uthappa and Sumit in the current tournament.
With outstanding sprinting skills, agility and a knack of powering through different corners, Singh has evolved into a mature player who has lived up to his billing in recent tournaments, especially the Rio games.
Harmanpreet Singh (Defender)
India’s prime penalty corner specialist in the absence of Rupinder Pal, Harmanpreet Singh has been India’s goal-scoring machine in the recent past.
The defender came in the limelight during the Under-21 Sultan of Johor Cup in 2014 for scoring seven goals including two in the final, and was awarded the Player of the Tournament trophy.
At the previous edition of the Asia Cup in 2015, Harmanpreet impressed with his performance, scoring a total of 15 goals. In the final against Pakistan, the Amritsar lad netted four goals which propelled India to a 6-2 win.
The Asian promising player of the year in 2016, has already scored two goals in the first match against Japan, proving he’s going to be an important part of the squad for the remaining of the tournament too.
Akash Chikte (Goalkeeper)
With goalkeeper and senior player PR Sreejesh missing from India’s squad, Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera have the major responsibility of manning the goal at the ongoing Asia Cup.
Just over a year after making his India debut, the 25-year-old replaced an injured Sreejesh as the first goalkeeper in the three nations tournament in Germany and the Hockey World League Semi-Final.
Though he didn’t attend the junior camp, the Yavatmal lad brushed up his basics under the mentorship of Sreejesh and Bharat Chhetri, and is all set for the Asia Cup.
Akashdeep Singh (Forward)
A young yet important part of the squad, Akashdeep Singh has recently been one of the highest scorers in the Indian team. Though he scored one goal in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the 22-year-old scored a total of seven goals in the HWL Semi-Final in London.
At just 21 years, Singh represented India at the Olympics and performed as well as he was expected to have. He scored two goals for the Indian side at the prestigious games, including one in the quarters that India lost.
The speedy forward’s pass to SV Sunil in the Asia Cup’s first game against Japan that ultimately lead to a goal proved he’s in good form. One could definitely expect a few goals off his stick in the tournament.
One of the few senior members in the squad, SV Sunil is making a comeback to the Indian dressing room after a break. The 28-year-old vice-captain, who admitted to being unhappy with his performance in the HWL Semi-Final, said the break helped his improve.
It was much-needed (the break). I had played back-to-back tournaments. I wasn’t personally satisfied with my form at the HWL Semi-Final. I faced personal issues too. My brother-in-law passed away during the tournament and I couldn’t concentrate. Now, I feel better.SV Sunil to The Hindu
An important member of last year’s Champions Trophy side that finished second, the Karnataka player was named Asian Hockey Federation’s Player of the Year for 2016. The swift forward is sure to play a key role in the Asia Cup too.
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