Field hockey may pale in comparison to what cricket can do in the Indian subcontinent [read: fan following and also the politics of it], but every time India and Pakistan meet on the turf, this humble game and its players always produce stunning moments. Come December, and the two proud hockey nations will renew their rivalry. And the occasion will be the Men's Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The draw for the tournament has been announced and the stage is set for another cracker of a tournament.
Three years ago, India and Pakistan shared the honours after rain spoiled the final in Muscat, Oman. But the lack of on-field action in 2018 was compensated by verbal duel. After reaching Karachi, the then Pakistan coach Hasan Sardar had bizarrely claimed that India backed out of the summit clash. A Hockey India official, rubbishing the claim, had rebuked Sardar for making the unwarranted statement.
For the record, in their round-robin clash, India had fought back to beat Pakistan 3-1. It was India's third successive win against Pakistan and 10th in the 11th meeting, with the lone aberration coming at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a 2-2 draw.
After that, India went on to break the decades-old Olympic hoodoo by claiming the bronze in Tokyo Games. But sadly for Pakistan, they failed to qualify for the postponed Games. And the three-time Olympic champions continue to struggle. But the Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka presents Pakistan a chance to course correct. This will be India's first outing after the Tokyo Olympics.
The 2018 final was supposed to be their fourth meeting in the Asian Champions Trophy summit clashes after 2011, 2012 and 2016. India won the title in 2011 and 2016, while Pakistan were victorious in 2012 and 2013 (against Japan in the final).
Hockey India on Friday announced a 20-member team for the tournament. Manpreet Singh will lead the team.
Six teams will -- Japan, India, Pakistan, Korea, Malaysia and hosts Bangladesh -- will compete in the sixth edition of the biennial event at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka. The same venue hosted the 2017 edition of the Asian Cup which was won by India after defeating Malaysia in the final. Pakistan finished third.
It was supposed to be held last year but were postponed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic.
2021 Men's Asian Champions Trophy will be telecast live on Star Sports Network. Live streaming will be available on Disney+ Hotstar.
India will play their opening match against South Korea (3:00 PM IST) on December 14, followed by games against hosts Bangladesh (December 15, 3:00 PM IST), Pakistan (December 17, 3:00 PM IST), Malaysia (December 18, 3:00 PM IST) and Japan (December 19, 3:00 PM IST).
The semifinals are scheduled for December 21 followed by the title clash on the next day.
Goalkeepers: Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Suraj Karkera;
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Mandeep Mor;
Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Sumit, Rajkumar Pal, Akashdeep Singh, Shamsher Singh;
Forwards: Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Shilanand Lakra.