India’s men’s hockey team will return to action for the first time since their historic Olympic bronze-medal winning campaign as the Asian Champions Trophy 2021 gets underway in Dhaka on December 14.

In their opening tie, India are up against Korea. The defending Champions will be led by Manpreet Singh and vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh as they look to win the trophy.

India have won this prestigious event thrice since its inception in 2011 and have won the previous two editions held in 2016 in Kuantan, Malaysia, and in 2018 in Muscat, Oman.

Skipper Manpreet emphasised on getting off to a good start. “Korea is a good team and are very capable of slowing down our attack. In this same venue during the Asia Cup in 2017, we had drawn (1-1) against them in the league stage. Hence, it’s important we don’t get complacent against them and ensure our basics are right when we play them tomorrow,” he said.

Speaking about the importance of the tournament for India, Manpreet said, “The tournament is quite an important one for us as it is our first tournament after the Tokyo Olympics. The new cycle has started for us. If we start well, then our confidence levels will go high,” he said.

Several youngsters have been given a chance in the India squad for the tournament, and Manpreet went on to explain why doing well for them here will be crucial.

“Youngsters have been given a chance to be a part of the squad because some of them were unable to get a chance over the past two years as the focus was on the core team preparing for the Olympics. The youngsters have been working hard for quite a while, and hence, they have been given a chance to prove themselves,” he said.

Speaking about the team’s fitness levels before the start of the tournament, Manpreet said: “We are in pretty good shape. We focused a lot on our fitness at the recent camp in Bhubaneswar. We are looking forward to see how the other Asian teams have shaped up over these past two years. The tournament will be a good test for our squad.”

India will play their opening match against Korea on December 14, followed by their match against hosts Bangladesh on December 15. Their third match will be against Pakistan on December 17 and on December 19 they take on Asian Games champions Japan.

The semi-finals will be played on December 21 followed by the final on December 22. In the previous edition of this event held in Muscat, Oman, India had jointly lifted the title along with Pakistan as the final was called off due to incessant rains.

On 14 December, Tuesday, India will take on Korea at 15:00 hrs IST. India matches will be telecast live on SS1 + Select 2 (SD+HD) and Hotstar.