When India begins the Men's Junior Asia Cup title defense against Chinese Taipei on Wednesday, they will try to get into this year's World Cup.
The competition is significant because the top three finishers will earn spots in the Junior World Cup, which will be held in Malaysia in December of this year. It also provides a platform for young players across the region to demonstrate their abilities.
Pakistan and India are the two most successful teams in the competition, having each won the trophy three times.
Pakistan, Japan, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, and India have been placed in Pool A, while the hosts Oman, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan are in Pool B.
They were well-prepared for the competition, according to captain Uttam Singh, who revealed they had played against the senior India squad in Bengaluru.
“Junior Asia Cup is a significant chance for us to demonstrate our mettle and put into practice all that we have practiced.
“Given the good international exposure that we have gained in the last couple of years and the recent practice sessions that we had in SAI Centre, Bengaluru, where we also played against the senior team to hone our skills, we can say that we are well prepared to defend the title,” Singh said in a Hockey India press release on Tuesday.
The victory in the Sultan of Johor Cup last year, according to India vice-captain Boby Singh Dhami, was a major confidence booster for the team going into the competition.
“Since there are World Cup berths up for grabs, we want to play with all of our might. We have found that winning the Sultan of Johor Cup last year has really boosted our confidence. We can defeat any squad in the competition, in my opinion, Dhami remarked.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the semifinals in accordance with the tournament's rules. The Junior World Cup in Malaysia will be attended by the two winners of the finals and the bronze medalist.
The other three teams making it to the tournament's final four will win entrance into the main event in December, however Malaysia, who has already qualified for the coveted quadrennial event by virtue of serving as the hosts, must go to the Junior Asia Cup semi-finals.
The match versus Pakistan will take place on May 27, immediately after India's second Pool encounter against Japan on May 25. On May 28, they will face Thailand in their last group match.
The championship game will be on June 1.