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Indian hockey team to face New Zealand A 

Auckland, Oct 1 (IANS) The India men’s hockey team will look to make a positive start as it gears up to take on New Zealand A in the opening game of the Kiwi tour here on Friday.

The tour will witness India playing the first two games against New Zealand A followed by four matches against the host’s national team.

Post winning the series against France and Spain recently during the Europe tour, the Asian Games champions have been working on different aspects of the game during the training camp that recently culminated at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.

India’s high performance director and chief coach Roelant Oltmans said his wards are ready for the “Kiwi challenge”.

“Every day and every game is new. We have started benchmarking ourselves and we will ensure that we go a notch higher with each game. This is important, keeping the upcoming tournaments in mind. Not every day do we have the opportunity to play big tournaments and to be in contention we have to start challenging ourselves and be our own competition,” Oltmans said in a release.

“The boys are not going to take tomorrow’s match lightly as it will set the tone for the upcoming matches. The team is looking good and ready to accept the Kiwi challenge,” the Dutchman added.

Talented Manpreet Singh has returned to the squad following an injury and the Punjab midfielder will be a big boost for India, captained by centre-half Sardar Singh.

He is also considered as a very effective resource to link between forward line and defence.

The forward line will have potent strikers in experienced S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah.

Penalty corner specialists Rupinder Pal Singh and V.R. Raghunath, alongwith Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh will form the defence line, while P.R. Sreejesh will be hoping to get his new goalkeeping learning into play soon.

Commenting on the team’s preparation captain Sardar stated: “It is very important to start a tour on a winning note as it gives you confidence for the rest of the matches.

“The team is working on the grey patches before the Hockey World League (HWL) Finals, so playing against New Zealand is surely going to help us in our preparations,” the 29-year-old added.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh (vice-captain), Harjot Singh.

Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular, Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurjinder Singh.

Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), Chinglensana Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Satbir Singh, Devinder Walmiki, Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh.

Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah.

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