Tournament favourites and three-time champions India will look to give final touches to their Asian Games preparation and address the areas of improvement in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) men’s hockey tournament, beginning here on Thursday.
World No. 4 India are the highest-ranked side in the tournament and will open their campaign against China at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here, which will host a major event for the first time since 2007.
It is also the first time India would be hosting the ACT since the tournament’s inception in 2011.
For India, the primary objective in the tournament would be to test the players and get a fair bit of idea about their Asian rivals ahead of the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8. With the Asian Games providing a direct ticket to next year’s Paris Olympics, India are expected to test their resources in the ACT while also playing a balancing act to keep their players fresh and free from injuries ahead of the all-important continental showpiece.
While the scheduling of the ACT just five weeks before the Hangzhou Games has drawn some criticism from the visiting sides, India head coach Craig Fulton does not seem to be too bothered by it.
India captain Harmanpreet Singh has already clarified that the team will have to be smart in this tournament and will not go all-guns-blazing as its priority is the Asian Games.
The one area India will be looking to address is the penalty corner conversion rate. Despite boasting of potent dragflickers in Harmanpreet, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas and Jugraj Singh, the conversion rate has been a topic of debate lately.