Well aware that it is their last chance to qualify for next year's World Cup, the Indian men's hockey team left for Ipoh, Malaysia on Friday to participate in the eight-nation Asia Cup to be held from August 24 to September 1.
Plagued by injuries, India have been forced to select a depleted 18-member squad under captain Sardar Singh for the Asia Cup.
Four key strikers -- Danish Mujtaba, SV Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- have been ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
In Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah, the Indian forwardline has two debutants. Other strikers - Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh and Malak Singh too do not have much experience at the international level.
Defender Amit Rohidas is the other new entrant in the Asia Cup-bound team. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has been named as Sardar's deputy in place of dragflicker VR Raghunath.
India need to win the Asia Cup to qualify for 2014 World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands. Not a single Asian country has managed to secure a World Cup ticket yet.
For the eight-time Olympic champions India and neighbours Pakistan, the Asia Cup is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971.
However, the road to the semifinals should not be much of a problem for the Indians. India are placed in the relatively easy Pool B along with Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.
India will open its campaign against Oman on August 24 followed by matches against Korea (August 26) and Bangladesh (August 28).
India's interim coach Roelant Oltmans is fully aware about the pressure, but the Dutchaman is confident about the team's performance.
"I'll be responsible for the team's performance but at the same time I'm confident also," Oltmans said before departing for Ipoh.
"We have prepared ourselves in the best possible manner in the short period of time we had. We can assure all that we will give our 100 per cent every single minute and in every single game we play.
"We will deliver, there is no doubt about it. The boys are working very hard and I am confident that it is the right team to be there," he added.