Defending champions India leave for Asia Cup hockey in Jakarta

Bengaluru, May 20 (IANS) Olympic bronze medallists Indian men’s hockey team left for Jakarta on Friday, where they will defend the Asia Cup title starting May 23. The team, led by Birendra Lakra, is up against Japan, Pakistan and hosts Indonesia in Pool A, while Malaysia, Korea, Oman and Bangladesh are grouped in Pool B.

India will kick off their campaign on the opening day against Pakistan. Speaking about the team’s excitement, Lakra said, “The team is definitely excited. The Asia Cup is a prestigious tournament and we will have quite a few players who will be experiencing this tournament for the first time so naturally the mood is quite upbeat in the team.”

Talking about the team’s preparations, Lakra said, “Our camp in SAI Bengaluru was quite tough and very fruitful. While we got to know more about each player’s strengths, and improved our on-field communication, Sardar (Singh, coach) was also very particular about our fitness.”

In the previous edition held in Dhaka in 2017, India had defeated Malaysia in the final to lift the trophy. Reflecting his thoughts on his team’s prospects this year, Lakra said, “We just want to take it one match at a time, definitely there will be a lot of tense nerves ahead of the first match against Pakistan but we will focus on our own game and get on from there.”