Riding high on their Asia Cup triumph in Kuala Lumpur last month, the Indian men's hockey team is looking forward to a back-to-back title in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, beginning in Hyderabad on October 24.
Asian giants India and Pakistan are clubbed together in Group B and tipped to progress to the semi-finals. Egypt and Zimbabwe, both lowly teams, are the other teams in the group.
While Pakistan plays Zimbabwe in their first match, India clash with Egypt in the fourth and the last match of the opening day's programme, on October 23.
The other matches of the day are between the Group A teams, Ghana and Korea, and Malaysia and South Africa.
India will be without captain Dhanraj Pillay, who has been rested for the Games along with six other players including Baljit Singh Dhillon and utility half-back Baljit Singh Saini.
Earlier, the Afro-Asian Games organising committee had appealed to the IHF to include Pillay for the Games but since Pakistan and Korea too will be fielding second string teams they did not pursue their request.
With the hockey tournament at the Games not being considered significant enough ahead of the Olympic qualifiers and apprehensions about its success prevailing among all national sports federations, the
IHF is keeping its fingers crossed as a galaxy of personalities, including King Azlan Shah of Malaysia, FIH president Els van Breda Vriesman and Pakistan Hockey Federation president Brig.Atif have accepted the invitation to attend the Games.
IHF sources say they had to persuade both Malaysia and Pakistan to participate. Malaysia had to cancel their tour of Australia while Pakistan were in no mood to visit India after their Asia Cup loss, they said.
The 24-Indian probables for the Games are at present undergoing a conditioning camp in Delhi.
However, the women's event at the Games received a setback after China, a formidable team, Japan and Korea withdrew citing prior commitments.
The Andhra Pradesh government has laid two astro turfs, one with floodlight facility, at Gachinowli, the main venue of the Games, where three other events -- athletics, boxing and swimming -- will be held.
The men's hockey draw:
Group A: Ghana, Korea, Malaysia and South Africa
Group B: Pakistan, India, Egypt and Zimbabwe.
Oct 23: Pakistan vs Zimbabwe; Ghana vs Korea; Malaysia vs South Africa and India vs Egypt
Oct 24: Rest day
Oct 25: Malaysia vs Ghana; Pakistan vs Egypt; Korea vs South Africa and India vs Zimbabwe
October 26: Rest day.
October 27: South Africa vs Ghana; Egypt vs Zimbabwe; Korea vs Malaysia and India vs Pakistan'
Oct 28: Rest day.
Oct 29: Placing matches and semi-finals - Group A1 vs Group B2 and Group B1 vs Group A2
Oct 30: Rest day.
Oct 31: Placing matches and third and fourth place match. Final: at 1900 hrs.