Asia Cup 2022: With focus on the future, Indian hockey team on a learning curve

The Indian men's hockey team against Japan in an Asia Cup league match. (PC: Hockey India)
The Indian men's hockey team against Japan in an Asia Cup league match. (PC: Hockey India)

The Indian men's hockey team, a relatively inexperienced one, find themselves in an unsavory situation in the ongoing Asia Cup. After sharing points with Pakistan in their opening match, India were steamrolled by Japan in their second.

Lying third in the four-team pool, India, the defending champions of the Asia Cup, face an exit from the tournament at the end of the league stage. There is a lot at stake as it is a World Cup qualifier and the inexperienced Indian team came a cropper against some aggressive hockey.

India, having qualified for the World Cup as hosts, have sent a new-look team to the Asia Cup.

Read: Despite better fitness, young Indian hockey team concedes last-minute goal against Pakistan

The move to send a new-look team to the Asia Cup is justified. Hockey India is looking to create a pool of reserve players who can step into the senior team with enough match and pressure situation experience. With a shorter Olympic cycle and an action-packed season that includes the Commonwealth Games, World Cup, the now-postponed Asian Games, creating a healthy pool of players is Hockey India's prime objective.

Gaining experience in Asia Cup

While defending the Asian title might have been far-fetched for this Indian team, gaining valuable experience was one of the key factors the team had to go through. And they got exactly that.

Against Pakistan, the team conceded a last-minute goal, enough for the opposition to gain a solitary point and rob India of two valuable points. The team's penalty corner conversion - a nemesis - is also under the scanner.

Also read: India captain Birendra Lakra rues missed opportunities as Japan beats India 5-2

In their second match against Japan, the Indian team had a horrid first half, chasing the ball and answering tough, aggressive questions the Japanese players put forth.

India did well in patches. They did control the game in midfield in the second quarter but with the aim of pushing ahead, the defence seemed to open up a little - enough for Japan to make inroads.

The positive India can take out of the campaign so far has been their fitness. The Indian team neither had dropping shoulders nor lacked the firepower to surge ahead.

The tournament is also Sardar Singh's first assignment as a coach. The team is on a learning curve, evident from their good second-half showing against Japan.

While the Asia Cup will be behind the Indian team real quick, a talented pool of players looking ahead to the World Cup and further to the Paris Olympics in 2024 looks good.

Also read: Hockey Technical officer Sonia Bathla looking forward to Commonwealth Games

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