Well aware that it is its last chance to qualify for next year’s World Cup, the Indian men’s hockey team on Friday left for Ipoh, Malaysia to participate in the eight-nation Asia Cup to be held from August 24 to September 1.

Plagued by injuries, India was forced to field a young 18-member squad under inspirational Sardar Singh for the Asia Cup.

With four key strikers — Danish Mujtaba, S.V. Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh — ruled out of the tournament due to injuries, India’s forwardline is in shambles.

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 under their belt. Defender Amit Rohidas is the other new entrant in the team.

Goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh has been named as Sardar’s deputy in place of dragflicker V.R. Raghunath.

The list of injuries has made India’s road much tougher in the Asia Cup, a tournament which it needs to win to qualify for 2014 World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands. And with not a single Asian country managing to secure a World Cup ticket yet, it would be a Herculean task for India to finish at the top of the podium.

To add to it, the failure to qualify for the World Cup will be a big embarrassment for the Indians who will be desperate to avoid the 2008 Olympics debacle.

India is placed in Pool B along side Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.

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