The failure to clinch the gold medal at the just-concluded Asian Games still fresh in its mind, the Indian women's hockey team will look to showcase its real potential in the Asian Champions Trophy when it starts its campaign against Thailand on Friday. (More Hockey News)
India lost 0-4 to China in the semifinals of the Asian Games in Hangzhou but defeated Japan 2-1 to clinch the bronze medal.
The bronze medal, however, was a disappointing result for the Indians, who started as favourites and were eyeing a gold in the Asian Games, which would have given them a direct ticket to next year's Paris Olympics.
The ACT, however, will provide a perfect platform for the Savita Punia-led side to avenge their defeat against reigning Asian Games champions China and silver medallists Korea, against whom they drew 1-1 in the league stages.
Six teams, including hosts India, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand will compete in the tournament. As per the format, all six teams will play each other in the round-robin league stage and the top-four teams will advance to the semifinals.
India's chief coach Janneke Schopman has named a tried and tested side, with the only notable absentee from the Asian Games squad being experienced midfielder Sushila Chanu, who has been rested due to a suspected Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury.
Baljeet Kaur has replaced Sushila in the squad.
Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, who too was in the Asian Games squad, has been named as a replacement player along with Sharmila Devi and will travel with the squad as back-up option.
Besides Sushila, there were no surprises as such in the squad named for the ACT to be played at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh AstroTurf Hockey Stadium
here from October 27 till November 5.
Besides India, defending champions Japan and Asian Games gold medallist China are the other favourites in the tournament.
After Thailand, India will play Malaysia (October 28), China (October 30), Japan (October 31) and Korea (November 2). The semifinals and final are scheduled for November 4 and 5.
The Indians were near-perfect at the Asian Games barring one bad day against China in the semifinals and they would look to erase that memory and make a fresh start in the ACT.
The tournament will also serve as a platform for India ahead of next year's Olympic qualifiers to be played here.
"In tournaments like these, no team can be taken lightly. We are looking forward to these matches as they will help us test our mettle against some of the most formidable teams in Asia.
"Of course, we want to win every match and perform well here. We are also looking to prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympics Qualifiers, which will also be hosted in Ranchi. This tournament serves as a vital preparatory test before the ultimate challenge of securing an Olympic berth," India captain Savita said.
India's chief coach Schopman agreed with Savita.
"Playing these matches ahead of the Olympics Qualifiers is a great opportunity. It allows us to study the other teams and assess how players perform their assigned roles.
"Our recent performances in the Asian Games were promising, and I am excited and eager to see our team in action," the Dutch said.
India will also be aiming to secure their second women's Asian Champions Trophy title after seven years.
India had won the title once in 2016 and finished runners-up in the 2013 and 2018 editions, besides finishing third in 2010. The women's ACT is being hosted in India for the first time.
Meanwhile in other matches on the opening day, title holders Japan will take on Malaysia and China will face South Korea.