CHENNAI: In the early hours of Friday morning, the Indian men’s team — a much-changed one — will have landed in Jakarta for the Asia Cup. In terms of the status of the event, it’s pretty big. It’s a World Cup qualifier. Three of the sides not already qualified for the 2023 World Cup will confirm their qualification in the next 10 days’ time.
India, of course, do not have such worries. As they are hosting the event, they have already qualified. So the make-up of the squad isn’t really a surprise. Saying that, one must note that this largely inexperienced team will be led by Biren Lakra, the defender who retired from the sport after the Olympics (it was originally slated to be led by Rupinder Pal Singh but he had to drop after sustaining a fracture with Lakra acting as deputy). Curiously enough, even if there will be international caps on offer at this event, Hockey India’s official website lists the likes of Rupinder, Biren and 12 of the 18 others on the trip as part of their ‘A’ team. Why? This daily has asked this question multiple times to the federation but no answer has been forthcoming.
That isn’t the only question the Asia Cup throws up. When Hockey India decided to send a vastly different team to the Commonwealth Games, they took that decision because of the packed nature of the calendar. With Asian Games assuming greater importance as it contained an Olympic spot for the winners, they formed a new team with a mix of youth of experience, including semi-retired players, to send to Birmingham with the Asia Cup acting as a testing ground for the scratch team.
As the Commonwealth Games had the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England, the logic behind that decision was that it would also act as decent exposure to the likes of Yashdeep Sivach, Vishnukant Singh and Uttam Singh, three of the players who featured at the junior World Cup last November-December.
With the Asian Games indefinitely postponed, there is no word yet on whether the main team will now be sent to Birmingham.
Full story: newindianexpress.com