India will be defending their title in the tournament.

The sixth edition of the Asian Champions Trophy returns in December 2021. It will kickoff on 14 December and will reach its climax on 22 December, with the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka serving as its venue. Organized by the Asian Hockey Federation (AFH), the tournament will finally see the light of day after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament will witness defending champions India looking to retain their title. The single pool tournament will also have Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Pakistan posing a threat to India’s consecutive title hopes. The top four teams will play in the semi-finals. India will start things off with a match against South Korea on the opening day.

Hockey India has already announced the 20-member squad for the tournament. Manpreet Singh will be leading the team and Harmanpreet Singh will be his deputy, along with a bunch of other talented Indian players. In this article, we will take a look at some of those players who will be key to India’s victory. The players who might be difference-makers in the tournament and lead India to their fourth Asian Champions Trophy victory:

5. Varun Kumar

Defender and drag-flicker Varun Kumar will be an important asset for the Indian hockey team. The Punjab-born defender is the noted recipient of many accolades and that too at just 26 years of age. The man was a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics. On top of that, he has also won medals at the Asian Games, Asia Cup and Junior World Cup.

Moreover, he was also part of the Indian team that won the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat in 2018. So, it goes without saying that the young defender will play a big role in India’s good performance. Varun Kumar will also be playing second fiddle to Harmanpreet Singh. He was terrific during the Tokyo Olympics and head coach Graham Reid will be expecting another solid tournament from the player.

4. Krishan Bahadur Pathak

The absence of PR Sreejesh will focus all the attention on a man from Kapurthala, Punjab. Krishan Bahadur Pathak will be the man protecting India’s net at the Asian Champions Trophy. Pathak had his formal training at the famous Surjit Hockey Academy in Jalandhar.

Hockey sreejesh tokyo olympics
Sreejesh will not play in the tournament (Courtesy: Hockey India)

Despite his young age, Krishan Pathak too has won multiple distinctions. He has mostly played as a reserve in the senior team so far, but his talent was never in question. His medal at the 2016 Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup certainly laid speculation to rest in that regard. Debuting for the senior side in 2018, he was also the first-choice goalkeeper at the 2018 Azlan Shah Cup.

It will be interesting to see how the youngster fares in Dhaka. Replacing Sreejesh is no easy task and all eyes will follow each move he makes.

3. Akashdeep Singh

Experienced midfielder Akashdeep Singh makes a comeback to the senior hockey team. After missing out on the Tokyo Olympics, he returns to a tournament where he has achieved great success, including two gold medals ( Kuantan, Muscat) and a silver (Doha). Apart from that, Akashdeep Singh also has multiple achievements to his name.

Medals from the Commonwealth Games, Asia Cup and Asian Games adorn his cabinet. He has also scored 72 goals for his nation in his 194 appearances. So, if the Indian team to do well at the Asian Champions Trophy, he must deliver. Now, it remains to be seen if the last edition’s ‘Player of the Tournament’ can repeat his performances this year. India will certainly hope he does, so that they can make it a hat-trick of gold medals at the Asian Champions Trophy.

2. Manpreet Singh

Indian team has done well under Manpreet so far (Courtesy-Hockey India)

Manpreet Singh has been entrusted with the captaincy of the Indian hockey team once again, after his brilliant performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Jalandhar lad had scripted the comeback of the decade after winning the bronze medal with the India team at the Olympics after 40 long years.

As a result, chief coach Graham Reid has relied on his services. Manpreet Singh has always delivered as per expectations and will be looking to continue his good run of form. On 18 May 2017, he became captain for the first time and has been holding his position capably since then. He’s also added an FIH Player of the Year Award to his tally in 2019.

1. Harmanpreet Singh

Finally, we come down to the man who will be strengthening the team’s defence as well as looking to score for the Indians. He’s the vice-captain of the Indian team and was the second-highest goalscorer for India in the last edition. Harmanpreet’s six goals definitely made it easier for India to win the Asian Champions Trophy in 2018.

Another product of the illustrious Surjit Hockey Academy, Harmanpreet Singh has been irreplaceable in the squad. Riding on good form with a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Singh, the drag-flicker could just be the star of the tournament. Rupinder Pal Singh has retired from international hockey and has passed the baton to Harmanpreet Singh.

Revered for his skills, Harmanpreet will definitely raise caution for the opposition’s goalkeepers in the upcoming tournament. The ‘FIH Player of the Year’ will certainly not make their job any easier.

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