New Delhi: Star goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh was on Thursday retained as captain of the Indian men's hockey team for the fourth edition of the Asian Champions Trophy, to be held at Kuantan in Malaysia from October 20.
Mid-fielder Manpreet Singh was named Sreejesh's deputy in the 18-member squad announced by Hockey India (HI).
The squad is a mix of young and experienced players. Star drag flicker V.R. Raghunath has been rested along with the forwardline duo of Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh while seasoned defender Birendra Lakra makes a come-back after an injury lay-off.
Lakra, who recently showed his prowess in the recently held Obaidullah Khan Heritage Hockey Cup in Bhopal and the MCC-Murugappa Cup in Chennai, will form India's defence along with the experienced Rupinder Pal Singh, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar and Pardeep Mor.
While the midfield line-up remains unchanged, the forwardline will see Talwinder Singh and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay. Defender Jasjit Singh Kular will be expected to double-up as drag flicker in the absence of Raghunath.
Scheduled two months after the Olympic Games, the men's Asian Champions Trophy will see India, Korea, Japan, China and hosts Malaysia challenge defending champions Pakistan.
"The Asian Champions Trophy is an important tournament for us and going by the world rankings, India will go in as favourites to win the title. The team has been upbeat since their return to the camp after the Olympic Games and are eager to start the season on a winning note," expressed Roelant Oltmans, chief coach and Director High Performance.
Commenting on his side's preparations, Sreejesh emphasised on playing with caution.
"We may be the top ranked team in Asia right now but no team can be taken lightly. The defending Champions (Pakistan) are known to spring a surprise and Korea too will be a team to watch out for as they have been playing good quality hockey lately," he said.
Goalkeepers: P.R Sreejesh (Captain) Akash Chikte
Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Pardeep Mor, Jasjit Singh Kular, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar
Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh (Vice Captain), Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Devindar Walmiki
Forwards: Talwinder Singh, S.V. Sunil, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Affan Yousuf