The 11th edition of the Hockey Men's Asia Cup begins in Jakarta on May 23. The Indians, who are the defending champions, have won the tournament thrice.
India have been drawn in Group A along with three-time winners Pakistan, Japan, and hosts Indonesia. Group B consists of four-time title-holders South Korea, Malaysia, Oman, and Bangladesh.
The quadrennial tournament also serves as a qualifier for the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup.
Tayyab Ikram, the CEO and Secretary General of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) held a press conference on Wednesday, May 18. He dwelt at length on the highlights of this year's Asia Cup, which will include the all-important India-Pakistan clash.
The two subcontinental rivals may get to play each other twice as the top two teams from each group will advance to the Super 4s. The Super 4s were introduced in the 2017 Asia Cup, and will see the qualified teams playing in a round-robin format ahead of the finals.
"The main idea behind the Super 4s is to enable the top athletes to play top-level hockey. We were able to attract millions of viewers because of this format which was introduced in 2017."
A young Indian team will be coached by two-time Olympian Sardar Singh, who retired in 2018. Pakistan is now coached by Dutchman Siegfried Aikman, who guided Japan to their first-ever gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018.
Ikram, who is well acquainted with both the coaches, opined that the two teams were in capable hands ahead of the big tournament.
"Siegfried is a product from the FIH Institute where I too worked for 30 years. It hasn't been too long since Sardar Singh retired, so he is a good judge of high performance. Both are very capable coaches. Siegfried has experienced a lot of different cultures. Sardar has a lot of experience from leading the India side."
"It was my first tournament after I took over from Roelant Oltmans and I had only five weeks to prepare" - Sjoerd Marijne on 2017 Asia Cup
The Indians, under the tutelage of Sjoerd Marijne, won the gold medal in the Dhaka edition of the Asia Cup in 2017.
In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, Marijne stated that although he had just taken over from Roelant Oltmans at that time, the tournament went very well.
"It was my first tournament after I took over from Roelant Oltmans and I had only five weeks to prepare. My biggest goal was to play attacking hockey with give and go from a strong defence with pressure on the ball and I think that tournament went very well and the goals were achieved with scores."
Weighing in on the benefits of the Super 4s format, the Dutchman opined that playing the round-robin format amongst the top four teams helps determine the strongest outfit.
"What I like about the format is that you play everyone in the second round and the different styles need adjustments from the team and besides you really can see who was the strongest."
Defending champions India will meet Pakistan in their opening match, which will be played on May 23.