Manpreet to lead; Birendra, Harmanpreet named vice-captains
India named incumbent Manpreet Singh as the skipper of the men's hockey team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics where he will have two deputies in defenders Birendra Lakra and Harmanpreet Singh.
India had announced a 16-member team for the showpiece event last week but refrained from naming the team's leadership group.
"...I am humbled to have this opportunity of representing India at the Olympics for the third time, this time as team Captain. It is a very proud moment for me to be given this charge," Manpreet said in a statement issued by Hockey India.
"Over these past few years, we have developed a strong leadership group and have successfully overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic to not drop our form and keep our minds and fitness focused towards doing well at the Olympics."
Under the mid-fielder's captaincy, the Indian team has achieved important milestones, including winning the Asia Cup in 2017, claiming the Asian Champions Trophy in 2018 as well as winning the FIH Series Final in 2019 over the past four years.
India also reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar and performed exceedingly well in the FIH Hockey Pro League under Manpreet before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule.
This will be Manpreet's third Olympic Games and under his leadership, the team has also improved its world ranking to the No 4 spot right now.
Chief Coach Graham Reid said, "All three players have been an integral part of the team's leadership over these past couple of years and have shown a lot of maturity in guiding the youngsters during these challenging times."
"Naming two Vice Captains we believe will also strengthen our leadership in what is going to be a demanding tournament. We are confident that together they will guide the team to success."
Birendra is a veteran defender who was also part of the London Olympic Games but missed out of Rio Games owing to a major knee surgery in 2016.
But since his return to the squad, Birendra has only grown in his performance and has been resolute in his role in the team.
Harmanpreet too has grown in his role as a dragflicker and defender since his Senior India debut in 2015.
In the absence of skipper Manpreet in 2019, Harmanpreet led the Indian team to a win at the FIH Olympic Test event in Tokyo.
India will begin their Olympic campaign on July 24 when they take on New Zealand in their first Pool stage match.