Asian Champions Trophy put back to March 2021

The continental meet, originally scheduled for Bangladesh in November this year, would have been India's first major tournament since the COVID lockdown

By Subhayan Dutta

The Indian men’s hockey team is not scheduled to contest any major international tournament this year after the Asian Champions Trophy was postponed on Thursday.

The competition was originally scheduled for November this year in Dhaka, but the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) has rescheduled the biennial event to 11-19 March next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First held in 2011, this will be the sixth edition of the continental tournament.

India has won it three times – in 2011, 2016 and 2018 where they were awarded the title jointly with Pakistan after consistent poor weather forced their final to be abandoned.

They were also runners-up in 2012.

The Asian Champions Trophy in the Bangladeshi capital looks set to be the first major event of 2021 and the first continental tournament in over 15 months.

Indian men’s hockey team have won the Asian Champions Trophy thrice. Photo: Hockey India

Gruelling away road to Olympics

The postponement of the Asian Champions Trophy leaves the Indian hockey team with only a trip to Malaysia this year, subject to approval from the Indian government.

The team is scheduled to embark on a busy away season before the Tokyo Olympic Games.

They are start their 2021 away calendar with a 4-Nations Cup in New Zealand in February before the Asian Champions Trophy at Dhaka's Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium.

India will come up against hosts Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea with the top four in the round-robin progressing to the semi-finals.

Next up for Graham Reid's men is the FIH Pro League in April and May with India visiting Argentina, Great Britain, Spain and Germany before returning home to host New Zealand.

And then finally, the team will travel to Tokyo for the Olympic Games in July.

India, who won last August's test event at Oi Hockey Stadium, will meet hosts Japan in Pool A with Australia, Argentina, Spain and New Zealand completing the group.

It is now 40 years since India won the last of their eight Olympic gold medals in hockey at Moscow 1980 with the team failing to reach the semi-finals since then.