The India women's hockey team, led by goalkeeper Savita, left for its first major international assignment of the new year on Sunday morning, boarding the flight to Muscat (Oman) to defend its Asia Cup title at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.The team was training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here and will begin its campaign against Malaysia on January 21. The final will be played on January 28.Apart from Malaysia, India will compete against China, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand for the trophy and the top-four teams in Muscat will qualify for the 2022 FIH Women's Hockey World Cup to be held in Spain and the Netherlands.Captain Savita, who is leading in the absence of the injured Rani Rampal, said pre-departure that the team will focus on itself and its strengths."Our main focus will always be on ourselves. We have seen videos of recent matches of Malaysia Japan, Korea, China, and other teams and we have prepared for them. But every team has their strengths and weaknesses and hence, we aim to focus on ourselves," Savita said.
"We have to ensure we remain strong when taking and defending penalty corners. When we play attacking hockey, we must ensure we also remain tight on defence. If we focus on our strengths, then the opposition will themselves find it difficult to challenge us," she added.Savita also stressed on the importance of the continental tournament for the side, and said that playing in the tournament will boost their confidence ahead of big challenges later in the year."This tournament is very important for us as we have trained really hard and worked on several aspects of the game in the past few months. We are waiting to play in the matches so that we can showcase what we are practicing and gain confidence," Savita said."There are several big tournaments coming later this year, including the World Cup and Asian Games. We also have the FIH Pro League matches this year. Since we have not played many games after the Olympics, this tournament will help us prepare for the challenges that lie ahead of us in 2022," she added.