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World Cup: Injured Hardik Singh Out of World Cup in Big Jolt for India, Raj Kumar Pal Named Replacement

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The 24-year-old midfielder has been replaced in the squad by Raj Kumar Pal

World Cup: Injured Hardik Singh Out of World Cup in Big Jolt for India, Raj Kumar Pal Named Replacement
Hardik Singh (8) of India reacts after scoring a goal against Spain during a match of FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, in Rourkela, Odisha.(PTI)

Hardik Singh, who suffered a hamstring injury in India’s second Pool D clash against England, was on Saturday ruled out of the World Cup.

The news came in ahead of the crucial crossover contest against New Zealand at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday. The winner progresses to the quarter-finals where reigning champions Belgium are waiting. The midfielder has been replaced by Raj Kumar Pal, who was one of the two reserve players along with Jugraj Singh.

Hardik was unquestionably India’s best player in the first two games, scoring a sensational goal against Spain in the opener and making several solo runs towards the goal against England. The 24-year-old was rested against Wales.

“Overnight we had to make the difficult decision of replacing Hardik Singh in the team for Sunday’s match against New Zealand and the subsequent World Cup matches. While the injury was not as severe as the initial incident suggested, time was not on our side and after our ongoing thorough rehabilitation process and functional and on-field assessment, it has been decided that we will replace Hardik with Raj. While it is extremely disappointing for Hardik personally, given how well he played in our first two matches, we are excited at the prospects of Raj joining the group for the remaining World Cup matches,” India coach Graham Reid said.

India suffered another scare when forward Mandeep Singh got injured in a tackle with vice-captain Amit Rohidas during a practice game on Saturday evening. Mandeep got off the turf and was attended by physiotherapist Abhinav Sathe before he walked off the ground. Reid refused to comment, saying it was a “closed practice”.

New Zealand, ranked 12th in the world, played India twice last year, losing both games in the Pro League held here in October-November. India’s last loss to New Zealand was in the Tokyo test event before the Olympics in August 2019. Since then, the Harmanpreet Singh-led outfit has won all four games against the Black Sticks.

by Sandip Sikdar

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