Asian Games hockey preview: One eye on gold, other on Paris 2024

The Indian hockey teams, both men and women, will be hoping to secure podium finishes in Hangzhou and qualify for the Olympics next year. 

Published : Sep 21, 2023 11:09 IST - 3 MINS READ

Bengaluru: Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams for the Asian Games 2023 pose for photographs during a special send-off ceremony titled ‘Sunehra Safar’, in Bengaluru.
Bengaluru: Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams for the Asian Games 2023 pose for photographs during a special send-off ceremony titled ‘Sunehra Safar’, in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: PTI

Bengaluru: Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams for the Asian Games 2023 pose for photographs during a special send-off ceremony titled ‘Sunehra Safar’, in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Indian hockey teams, both men and women, will aim to secure their Paris Olympics spots with a strong show in China. It’s expected, but winning anything less than gold at the Asian Games would be a major disappointment.

The Indian men’s team, ranked third globally and the highest-ranked Asian team, faces a tough challenge. The recent Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai, despite criticisms about scheduling and conditions, served as excellent preparation for all teams before the Asian Games. It allowed them to evaluate their competition and their strengths and weaknesses. India’s victory in the tournament reaffirmed its claim as the best on the continent, both on paper and on the field.

India is in Pool A with Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. To reach the semifinals, India needs to secure a top-two finish. While this might seem easy, the main challenge for the men will be to stay focused and not underestimate their opponents. Japan and Pakistan, the defending champions, are formidable competitors who could potentially cause an upset.

READ: Which sports have been newly included in Asian Games 2023?

India should learn from the 2018 experience. It was comfortably ahead but made a critical defensive mistake in the semifinal, leading to a shootout loss to Malaysia. While a lot has changed since then, both in terms of personnel and performances, India’s on-field discipline remains hit-or-miss, and the team would be hoping to avoid any blunders this time.

The squad, led by Harmanpreet Singh, is a mix of old and new, seeing the return of the experienced Lalit Upadhyay but missing the sharpness of Selvam Karthi and the position play of Akashdeep Singh upfront. While there are no major surprises, a bigger concern would be the lack of a backup to Harmanpreet in case he falters in the penalty corners, with Jugraj Singh omitted. Varun Kumar has not been up to par in recent times. Malaysia, ranked 10th, is likely to secure a top-two spot in Pool B. This sets the stage for a potentially tough semifinal showdown between the two strongest teams in the competition. South Korea, also in Pool B, poses a formidable challenge.

It might be a tad easier for the women to reach the semifinals, grouped with relatively weaker opponents in Pool A, but it won’t be a smooth road beyond that. The team selection itself was on the expected lines. With Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea as the other teams, the Indian women, also the highest ranked in the competition at seventh in the world, are expected to make the cut along with Korea.

The other pool has China, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Thailand. It’s expected that China and Japan will secure spots in the semifinals. The competition among women in Asia is intense, with Japan, China, and Korea closely trailing India in the rankings at 10th, 11th, and 12th. Facing either Japan or China in the semifinals will be a significant test for the Indian women in terms of form and fitness. While the team’s recent results against strong teams such as Australia, England, and Germany were not stellar, the Indian women will hope to apply the lessons learned from facing these formidable European opponents, in Hangzhou.

India men’s hockey team
Krishan Bahadur Pathak, PR Sreejesh, Harmanpreet Singh (captain), Amit Rohidas, Jarmanpreet Singh, Sumit, Jugraj Singh, Varun Kumar, Hardik Singh (vice-captain), Shamsher Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Manpreet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Akashdeep Singh, S Karthi, Gurjant Singh, Sukhjeet Singh, Pawan, Mandeep Singh
India women’s hockey team
Savita (captain), Bichu Devi Kharibam, Deepika, Lalremsiami, Monika, Navneet Kaur, Neha, Nisha, Sonika, Udita, Ishika Chaudhary, Deep Grace Ekka (vice-captain), Vandana Katariya, Sangita Kumari, Vaishnavi Vittal Phalke, Nikki Pradhan, Sushila Chanu, Salima Tete.
Friday, September 24 6:30am MAS vs THA (M)
Friday, September 24 8:45am IND vs UZB (M)
Friday, September 24 11am JPN vs BAN (M)
Friday, September 24 1:15pm KOR vs INA (M)
Friday, September 24 4pm CHN vs OMA (M)
Friday, September 24 6:15pm PAK vs SGP (M)
Monday, September 25 7:45am KOR vs SGP (W)
Monday, September 25 10:15am MAS vs HKG (W)
Monday, September 25 1:30pm THA vs KAZ (W)
Monday, September 25 4pm CHN vs INA (W)
Tuesday, September 26 6:30am IND vs SGP (M)
Tuesday, September 26 8:45am MAS vs UMA (M)
Tuesday, September 26 11am UZB vs JPN (M)
Tuesday, September 26 1:15pm PAK vs BAN (M)
Tuesday, September 26 4pm INA vs CHN (M)
Tuesday, September 26 6:15pm KOR vs THA (M)
Wednesday, September 27 7:45am JPN vs INA (W)
Wednesday, September 27 10:15am IND vs SGP (W)
Wednesday, September 27 1:30pm KOR vs HKG (W)
Wednesday, September 27 4pm CHN vs KAZ (W)
Thursday, September 28 6:30am UZB vs PAK (M)
Thursday, September 28 8:45am BAN vs SGP (M)
Thursday, September 28 11am OMA vs THA (M)
Thursday, September 28 1:15pm INA vs MAS (M)
Thursday, September 28 4pm CHN vs KOR (M)
Thursday, September 28 6:15pm JPN vs IND (M)
Friday, September 29 7:45am KAZ vs INA (W)
Friday, September 29 10:15am THA vs JPN (W)
Friday, September 29 1:30pm HKG vs SGP (W)
Friday, September 29 4pm MAS vs IND (W)
Saturday, September 30 6:30am SGP vs JPN (M)
Saturday, September 30 8:45am OMA vs INA (M)
Saturday, September 30 11am MAS vs KOR (M)
Saturday, September 30 1:15pm BAN vs UZB (M)
Saturday, September 30 4pm THA vs CHN (M)
Saturday, September 30 6:15pm PAK vs IND (M)
Sunday, October 1 7:45am SGP vs MAS (W)
Sunday, October 1 10:15am INA vs THA (W)
Sunday, October 1 1:30pm KOR vs IND (W)
Sunday, October 1 4pm CHN vs JPN (W)
Monday, October 2 6:30am KOR vs OMA (M)
Monday, October 2 8:45am THA vs INA (M)
Monday, October 2 11am SGP vs UZB (M)
Monday, October 2 1:15pm IND vs BAN (M)
Monday, October 2 4pm JPN vs PAK (M)
Monday, October 2 6:15pm
Tuesday, October 3 7:45am IND vs HKG (W)
Tuesday, October 3 10:15am MAS vs KOR (W)
Tuesday, October 3 1:30pm JPN vs KAZ (W)
Tuesday, October 3 4pm THA vs CHN (W)
Wednesday, October 4 7:45am Men's Classification (11th-12th) A6 vs B6
Wednesday, October 4 10:15am Men's Classification (9th-10th) A5 vs B5
Wednesday, October 4 1:30pm Men's semifinal 1
Wednesday, October 4 4pm Men's semifinal 2
Thursday, October 5 11am Women's Classification (9th-10th) A5 vs B5
Thursday, October 5 1:30pm Women's semifinal 1
Thursday, October 5 4pm Women's semifinal 2
Friday, October 6 7:45am Men's Classification (7th-8th) A4 v B4
Friday, October 6 10:15am Men's Classification (5th-6th) A3 v B3
Friday, October 6 1:30pm Men's Classification (3rd-4th)
Friday, October 6 4pm Men's Final
Saturday, October 7 7:45am Women's Classification (7th-8th) A4 v B4
Saturday, October 7 10:15am Women's Classification (5th-6th) A3 v B3
Saturday, October 7 1:30pm Women's Classification (3rd-4th)
Saturday, October 7 4pm Women's Final

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