India’s endeavour to bolster its military might unfolds as a complex and nuanced narrative. The recent strides made by the Narendra Modi government in remaking India’s military apparatus reflect not only a response to the rising spectre of Chinese power but also an intricate weeding out of ghosts of the past.
World no 4 India start favourite as they open their campaign in the Hero Asian Champions Trophy against 25th ranked China at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.
Defending champion Korea, Runners up Japan, Malaysia and Pakistan are the other teams who will vie for title at the seventh edition of the continental meet.
Riding on their recent outing in Spain, India led by drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh will look to begin their campaign on a strong note. “In tournaments like these, no team can be taken lightly. We are looking forward to these matches and seeing where we stand when we play Asian teams. Of course, we want to win every match and perform well here ahead of the Asian Games.”
He emphasized that this tournament is a preparatory test before the real challenge for an Olympic berth in Hangzhou Asian Games. “Understandably, there is a lot of excitement around the India-Pakistan matches, be it in cricket or in hockey. Naturally, there will be emotions running high when we play against Pakistan. But, for us, it’s just another game and we will go into the match with just one focus to win the game,” he said
India is scheduled to play world no 19 Japan in their second match on Friday, followed by their match against world No. 10 Malaysia on Sunday. The hosts , will face World no 9 Korea on Monday, followed by a day’s rest before they take on World no 16 Pakistan in a much-anticipated match on Wednesday, before going into the knockouts.
“Understandably, there is a lot of excitement around the India-Pakistan matches, be it in cricket or in hockey. Naturally, there will be emotions running high when we play against Pakistan. But, for us, it’s just another game and we will go into the match with just one focus to win the game,” said the captain .
With the Hero Asian Champions Trophy, a marquee event in the Asian Hockey calendar, being played in India for the first time, the hosts are keen on keeping the record intact in Egmore. “Chennai has been a special venue for the Indian team. In 2007, the team won the Asia Cup. We are eager to play in front of the spectators here and look forward to high-octane matches,”he added .
Agreeing with the Captain’s views, Chief Coach Craig Fulton said, “It is great that we are getting to play these matches ahead of the Asian Games. It gives us the ideal platform to study the other teams and also see how players excel in the roles they have been assigned to execute. We had some very good matches in Spain and a good training block before that in Bengaluru. I am excited and looking forward to the matches here.”
India and Pakistan are the joint most-successful teams at the Asian Champions Trophy with three titles each. The top four teams at the end of the single-legged round-robin league stage will qualify for the semi-finals. The final will be played on August 12.
The Asian Champions Trophy was last held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2021. South Korea defeated Japan in the final on penalties to win their maiden title. India defeated Pakistan 4-3 in the bronze medal match.
The Asian Champions Trophy 2023 will also serve as a preparatory event for the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, scheduled for September-October this year.