Top hockey stars including Ramandeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and SV Sunil will turn up for their respective home teams at the Senior National Hockey Championship (A division) starting here on Thursday.
The 11-day domestic hockey extravaganza will see India striker Ramandeep, who suffered an injury during the FIH Champions Trophy last year, return to action after a nearly six-month layoff.
He will be seen in Hockey Punjab jersey alongside Rupinder Pal and Akashdeep among other players in their campaign to defend the title.
Experienced forward Sunil, who missed the men's World Cup last year due to a knee injury, will captain Hockey Karnataka, while Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) features players such as Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Hardik Singh, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Birendra Lakra.
Railway Sports Promotion Board's Nilakanta Sharma, Chinglensana Singh and Dilpreet Singh will also be in the fray.
"The selection of core group of players for the upcoming season will be based on their performance in the previous international tournaments," Hockey India's High-Performance Director, David John said. "Their performance at the tournament in Gwalior too will be taken into consideration and the national selectors will keep a close watch on the event."
The pool stage will see five teams each in Pool A, B, C and D vie against each other to find a place in the quarterfinals.
Pool A includes Hockey Punjab, Hockey Chandigarh, Association of Indian Universities, Mumbai Hockey Association and Services Sports Control Board.
Pool B features last year's runners-up Petroleum Sports Promotion Board, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Hockey Haryana, Hockey Bhopal and Central Reserve Police Force.
Punjab and Sind Bank, Uttar Pradesh Hockey, Hockey Gangpur-Odisha and Punjab National Bank and Railways Sports Promotion Board will fight for the top two spots in Pool C while Air India Sports Promotion Board, Hockey Odisha, Namdhari XI, Hockey Karnataka and Canara Bank will slog it out in Pool D.
The top two teams from each pool will qualify for the quarterfinals.