The Indians have managed a feat which, until a couple of years back may have been considered quite impossible.
Indeed, not many could ever have imagined that a team like Pakistan which beat India en route to a silver in the prestigious Champions Trophy as recently as 2014, would disintegrate so rapidly, as to allow their arch-rivals to overrun them as many as nine times since the 2016 edition of the Asian Champions Trophy- with the consolation of a single controversial draw at Gold Coast.
The Indians overcame Pakistan at Muscat too and demolished Asian Games gold-medalists Japan with ridiculous ease, but the contest that truly matters is up next.
Forever the dark horses of Asian hockey, Malaysia have risen from the shadows to slowly but surely emerge as the biggest threat to India ahead of Pakistan at the continental level.
Harendra Singh was the assistant to Jose Brasa, back in 2010, when India faced Malaysia in the semifinals of the Guangzhou Asian Games. A see-saw battle ensued with both sides scoring twice before Rajpal Singh gave India the lead in the 54th minute (of a 70-minute encounter).
In the 67th minute, PC specialist, Mohd Amin Rahim equalized for Malaysia and scored again in golden goal extra-time to stun the Indians, and a distraught Harendra Singh quit immediately after.
The semifinal at Guangzhou had some uncanny similarities to the one at Jakarta - this time too, the Indians had the lead and were very nearly home when ace drag-flicker Razie Abdul Rahim scored off a PC at the death which sparked off wild celebrations from the entire Malaysian team even before the shootout.
Goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam, now aged 38, played a key role for Malaysia in the 2010 semifinals by denying the Indian strikers in regulation time, and eight years later, did so again in the tiebreaker, to rob Harendra's side of a place in the final.
At the Hockey World League Semifinal at London last year, Roelant Oltmans oversaw the annihilation of Pakistan by his Indian chargers, but the very same team succumbed to Malaysia in the quarterfinals - just as they failed to beat Malaysia in last year's Azlan Shah Cup.
The wily Dutchman is now with the Malaysian camp as chief coach, while Stephen van Huizen who plotted India's downfall at London and at Jakarta also continues as an assistant.
In the Asian Games at Jakarta, the Malaysians were outplayed 1-4 by Pakistan in the group stages but proved to be too good for Sreejesh and co. who were unbeaten until the semifinals after having pulverized every team in its pool.
No doubt, the Indians have a point or two to prove and a score to settle too, but there is much more than pride at stake. The Malaysians who are drawn in Pool D at next month's World Cup may well run into Harendra Singh's side who find themselves in Pool C.
It is therefore vital for the Indians to solve the Malaysian puzzle decisively before a possible crossover clash in Bhubaneswar, and needless to say, they simply cannot afford another slip-up.
The Malaysians have won all their matches thus far, against Japan, Oman, and South Korea, and are currently second in the pool standings while the Indians are on top by virtue of a superior goal difference. A cracker of a contest is on the cards between the two potential finalists.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Event: Asian Champions Trophy 2018
Venue: Muscat, Oman
Date: 23 October 2018
Time: 10:40 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Also ReadArticle Continues below
Live Updates: Sportskeeda