The Indian women’s hockey team will kickstart the new year with their travel to Muscat, Oman, in January where they will defend their title at the Asia Cup which will see the top eight teams of the continent – India, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore – vie for the top honours.
The competition which will be played in a two-pool format with cross-over classification matches is a qualifying tournament for the FIH World Cup 2022 to be held in Spain and the Netherlands in July.
Teams that finish in top four at the Asia Cup will qualify for the prestigious quadrennial event.
“In 2017, we won the Asia Cup to win direct qualification for the World Cup in London,” said India goalkeeper and vice-captain Savita Punia.
“I feel that win was one of the stepping stones for us to establish steady growth in our performance in the past four years. Definitely starting the season with a good show in Asia Cup will give us the right momentum as we play back-to-back tournaments,”
Following the Asia Cup, the team will move to Bhubaneswar, Odisha, where they will play the home matches in FIH Hockey Pro League.
“I think a lot of us are looking forward to the FIH Hockey Pro League matches,” said Savita.
“This will be our first outing in this prestigious League and we are absolutely looking forward to playing some of the best teams in the world. Needless to say, we are eager to play in Odisha again and to have world’s No 1 side Netherlands travel to India for these matches is something we had never imagined.”
India will take on the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and England in Bhubaneswar following which they will travel to Belgium and the Netherlands to play against Belgium, Argentina and USA in the month of June.
“I feel the Pro League matches will provide us with the best exposure ahead of the World Cup (in July),” said Savita.
“Last time, we made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in many decades. With our recent performance in the Olympics, and the support we garnered, we need to live up to the expectations by doing well in these major competitions to keep the interest alive in women’s hockey.”
The Commonwealth Games is scheduled for July following which the Indian team will vie for gold in the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou China in order to win a berth for the Paris Olympics. They will wrap up the season with the FIH Nations Cup in December which will be played in Valencia, Spain.
“No doubt, it will be a very hectic season and we have begun our preparations for it in all earnestness,” said Savita.
“We also have a very young and promising batch of players who have come into the camp of 60 players and it will be interesting to see who will eventually make it to the final core group of 33. Having a good core group in such a hectic year will mean a lot in terms of ensuring our performance doesn’t drop whenever someone needs to fill in for another player.”
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