New Delhi: Determined to defend the title, a confident Indian hockey team under Sardar Singh left for Doha to participate in the second edition of the Asian Champions Trophy to be held from December 20-27. The 18-member squad left for Doha by a Qatar Airways flight this morning, a day after the Hockey India League players' auction, where Sardar and his deputy V R Raghunath became the highest-paid players from India.
While Sardar was bought by the Delhi franchise for USD 78,000 (Rs 42.49 lakh), drag-flicker Raghunath also grabbed quite a few eyeballs after Sahara Uttar Pradesh Wizards bought him for USD 76,000 (Rs 41.40 lakh). India have retained the same team that finished fourth in the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy in Melbourne recently, where they lost to arch-rivals Pakistan in the bronze medal match.
Sardar, who was one of the five nominated players for the FIH Player of the Year Award this year, is upbeat about the team's chances in the tournament. "We have just one goal, we are going there to defend our title and we are confident of doing that," Sardar said before leaving for Doha. "We have very good team which is full of youngsters. We have shown is Melbourne what this team is capable of. There is a new found energy and confidence among the boys," he said.
Asked whether they will treat their upcoming match against Pakistan in the tournament as revenge encounter, Sardar said: "Every India-Pakistan match is intense. We will try not to repeat the mistakes we did against them in Melbourne. We have worked on our weak areas and are confident of beating them." The 2012 edition of the Asian Champions Trophy will also feature China, Japan, Malaysia, Oman and Pakistan. India will open their campaign against China on December 20 followed by matches against Japan (December 21), Oman (December 23), Pakistan (December 24) and Malaysia (December 26).