Performing well at the upcoming Asia Cup will give the Indian women's hockey team the requisite momentum for a busy 2022 season, which includes the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, says vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka.
Besides defending the title, a spot in this year's FIH Women's World Cup will be at stake for the Indian women in the Asia Cup to be held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here from January 21 to 28.
India will open its campaign against Malaysia on January 21 and top-four teams from the event will earn direct qualification to the World Cup to be co-hosted by Spain and Netherlands later this year.
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"It is important for us to perform well in the tournament as it will set the momentum for us for the upcoming challenges in 2022. It is a packed year for us, and the more games we play, the more we will be able to test ourselves and what we have been working on the training grounds," Ekka said in a statement issued by Hockey India.
Besides India, other participating teams in the tournament are China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
"It is sort of a new start for us. This will be our first full tournament after the Tokyo Olympics as unfortunately, we could only play one game in Korea at the Women's Asian Champions Trophy 2021," Ekka said.
India won the women's Hockey Asia Cup in 2017 to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, where they managed to reach the knockout stages.
In 2018, India also went on to win the silver medal at the Asian Games.
And Ekka believes a successful title defence in Muscat will be key for the team going forward.
"Winning the women's Hockey Asia Cup trophy in 2017 was a turning point for us and it really gave us the confidence that we can perform on the big stage if we play as a team.
"Winning the trophy once again can really motivate our players to perform even better this year and have an unforgettable 2022. It is very important for us to have a positive start," she said.