Olympic bronze-medallist Vivek Sagar Prasad will lead the 18-strong Indian men’s hockey squad’s title defence at the FIH men’s junior World Cup starting from November 24. The event slated to begin on November 24 will witness 16 top teams from across the globe vie for the tropyh, which was previously won by India in 2016. While the 21-year-old Vivek, who was part of India’s historic Olympic bronze medal winning senior team at Tokyo earlier this year, will captain the squad, 2018 Youth Olympics silver-medallist defender Sanjay will be supporting him as the vice-captain.

Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem and Boby Singh Dhami have been chosen as alternate players who will be allowed to compete only if there is an injury or someone in the 18-member squad is ruled out of the tournament due to COVID-19.

India begin their campaign on November 24 against France. They will take on Canada a day later on November 25 in their second match in the round robin league. This will be followed by their match against Poland on November 27. The knockout matches will take place between December 1 and 5.

The other teams in fray include Belgium, The Netherlands, Argentina, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Korea, Malaysia, Poland, France, Chile, Spain and USA.

“To choose the best 18 players to represent their country is one of the hardest things to do in sport. Each of these guys have put their everything into trying to make this team for the last 12-18 months,” men’s hockey team chief coach Graham Reid said.

“Through COVID, through sanctions and lockdowns, huge sacrifices have been made. We have chosen a group of 20 players, a team of 18 and 2 alternate players who we believe gives us the best chance of defending our title as Junior World Cup Champions.

“It is a well-balanced side with a lot of flexibility and flare. The key to these guys performing on the big stage will be to trust in each other and trust in their preparation,” he added.

Reid also spoke about the team’s ongoing preparations in Bhubaneswar where they are putting in the hard yards needed to succeed in the tournament.

“The players have been thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to train for the last few days at Kalinga Hockey Stadium which has become an icon in our sport.

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“Even though the ground will be empty, the Olympics have proven that the spectacle of hockey can still be enjoyed by everyone involved,” stated Reid highlighting the team’s excitement ahead of the tournament.

Squad: Vivek Sagar Prasad (C), Sanjay (VC) Shardanand Tiwari, Prashant Chauhan (GK), Sudeep Chirmako, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Maninder Singh, Pawan (GK), Vishnukant Singh, Ankit Pal, Uttam Singh, Sunil Jojo, Manjeet, Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem, Abhishek Lakra, Yashdeep Siwach, Gurmukh Singh, Araijeet Singh Hundal.

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