Indian women begin their campaign for a World Cup berth when the Asia Cup hockey tournament starts in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.Â The Ritu Rani-led team must win the championship to secure a place at the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands next year.
India will compete in Pool A with China, hosts Malaysia and Hong Kong. Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei will do battle in Pool B. India will open their campaign against Hong Kong on Saturday, followed by China on September 22 and hosts Malaysia on September 24. The final will be played on September 27.
Defending champions China are the highest ranked team in Asia will start the event as favourites, although three-time winners Korea will be a serious contender. Japan and India are also previous winners of the competition and are expected to challenge for the honours. Although considered to be outsiders, Malaysia are rapidly closing the gap and will be looking to perform on home soil.
Indian squad: (Goalkeepers) Rajani Etimarpu, Savita. (Defenders) Deep Grace Ekka, Joydeep Kaur, Kirandeep Kaur, Sunita Lakra, Deepika, Namita Toppo, P Sushila Chanu, M N Ponnamma. (Midfielders) Ritu Rani (captain), Chanchan Devi Thokchom (vice-captain), Soundarya Yendala, Lily Chanu. (Forwards) Poonam Rani, Rani, Vandana Katariya and Anuradha Devi Thokchom. Coach: Neil Hawgood.