India to begin Azlan Shah title defence
Ipoh: With almost all the teams bringing in new-look squads, India would target their fifth Sultan Azlan Shah trophy but will have to overcome some stiff resistance from world champions Australia and Asian champions South Korea on the way.
India, the defending champions and four time winners, will play China in their campaign opener tomorrow and will clash with traditional rival Pakistan here on Friday.
India's squad is well balanced with Sreejesh and Bharat Chetri guarding the goal post. The deep defence will be in the hands of Dhananjay Mahadik, Bharat Chikara and two rookie drag-flickers - 18-year old Amit Prabhakar and Rupinder Pal Singh -- while the versatile Sardar Singh is expected to lend stability in the dual role of defender and playmaker.
The mid-field quintet has seen the return of former skipper Prabodh Tirkey and Ravi Pal Singh. They will join Gurbaj Singh, Arjun Halappa, Vikas Pillay and Danish Mujtaba.
The Indian attack will be spearheaded by captain Rajpal Singh with Shivendra Singh, Mandeep Antil, Tushar Khandker and Sarvanjit Singh.
All the participating teams have brought many new faces thus using this tournament as a build up for the future. Australia has only four players of their World Cup squad while Pakistan led by Muhammad Imran has fielded virtually the South Asian Games outfit, dropping all their stars.
South Korea have also made six changes from the World Cup team, while Egypt who have the capability of causing an upset or two with their swift turnovers and robust defence has a blend of youth and experience.
Hosts Malaysia will be again expected to show the home supporters that they are no pushovers with their never say die spirit.