New Delhi, Nov. 7: India will make its debut in the second edition of FIH Pro League in January and senior dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh feels it will serve as an ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
After opting out of the inaugural tournament last year, the Indian men's hockey team will open its campaign in the FIH Pro League against The Netherlands at home in January next year. And Rupinder, who made a comeback into the national team in the Olympic Qualifiers in Bhubaneswar last week, said the Pro League will give India a fair idea about their strengths and weakness ahead of 2020 Olympics.
"The FIH Pro League was a great success in it's first edition, and we are all very excited to be a part of it next year. These matches will be a great test for us, especially playing against the best teams from around the world. We will be hosting as well as touring some very strong teams in the next eight months," he said.
"Our aim was to qualify for the Olympics, and now that we have secured our place, it is now time to put everything into preparation for the Olympic Games. We have nine months to prepare for the quadrennial event, and playing in the FIH Pro League will serve as good preparation for us.
"We will be able to determine where we stand against the top teams, and we will have enough time to make improvements and corrections in our game leading up to the Olympics," Rupinder added.
According to the schedule of the FIH Pro League season 2, India will play the Dutch side on January 18 and 19 next year. They will then host world champion Belgium on February 8 and 9 followed by two more home fixtures against Australia on February 22 and 23. The Indian team will then leave for away games in Germany (April 25 and 26) and Great Britain (May 2 and 3).
India will return to play on home soil on May 23 and 24 against New Zealand before travelling to Argentina to play on June 5 and 6. They will play the last leg of the Pro League round-robin matches in Spain on June 13 and 14.
India secured its place in next year's Olympics by beating Russia 11-3 on aggregate in a two-match Olympics Qualifiers in Bhubaneswar last week.
Rupinder, whose career has been plagued by injuries, got a new lease of life after being dropped from the national squad following India's poor show at the 2018 Asian Games. The snub almost cost the dragflicker his career before he gained his self confidence to force his way back into the team for the Olympic Qualifiers.
"It was an amazing feeling to be back in India blue colours after having missed out on some major tournaments last year. I was determined to perform well for my team, and make sure that we secured our place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games," Rupinder said.