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Sports shorts: Drag-flicker Rupinder returns for Oz tour

Last updated on: April 30, 2019 22:42 IST

Rupinder Pal Singh

IMAGE: Rupinder Pal Singh last played for India at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta last year. Photograph: Hockey India/Facebook

Experienced drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh returned to India’s 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, billed as 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.

On the Australia tour too, India will try youngsters besides testing experienced players ahead of handpicking the squad for the Hockey Series Final, from June 6 to 15.

P R 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 along side Hardik Singh, Manpreet, Vivek Sagar Prasad and Nilakanta Sharma.

The forward-line will comprise 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 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’s 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.

Neeraj Chopra nominated for Khel Ratna

Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who won a gold medal in the Asian Games last year with a record throw, has been nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Khel Ratna award by the Athletics Federation of India.

The 21-year-old Neeraj, one of the very few world-class track and field athletes India currently has, was awarded the Arjuna last year after winning gold in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He was also nominated for the Khel Ratna last year but considered only for the Arjuna.

After his gold-winning feat at the Asian Games, with a National record throw of 88.06 metres, the AFI re-nominated him for the Khel Ratna this year.

"Neeraj Chopra has been re-nominated by the AFI this time also. He is the only one recommended for Khel Ratna from athletics," a top source said.

Five other track and field athletes have been nominated for the Arjuna award. They are  Asian Games gold winners Tejinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put), Arpinder Singh (triple jump), Manjit Singh (800m) and Swapna Barman (heptathlon) and Dutee Chand (silver in 100m and 200m).

Sindhu, Saina, Srikanth in team for Sudriman Cup

P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will lead a strong Indian contingent at the 2019 Sudirman Cup mixed team championship, in Nanning, China from May 19 to 26.

Four-time World Championships medallist Sindhu won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics while Saina won a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

Srikanth is currently ranked eighth in the world in the men's singles.

India have been seeded eighth in this edition of the tournament. Last year, at Gold Coast, Australia, India reached the quarter-finals.

India is placed in tough Group D, alongside hosts China and Malaysia, and will need to finish in top two in the league stage to reach the knock-out rounds.

India defeated Malaysia in the mixed team format to win the Commonwealth Games gold in Gold Coast last year and the absence of former world number one Lee Chong Wei is good news for the contingent.

The 13-member Indian contingent also comprises in-form Sameer Verma besides witnessing the return of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who was out of action due to an injury, and will feature in the men's doubles event along with Chirag Shetty.

India squad:

Men: Kidambi Srikanth, Sameer Verma, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Manu Atri, B Sumeeth Reddy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra.

Women: P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, N Sikki Reddy, Poorvisha S Ram, J Meghana.

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