The Indian men's hockey team will be unable to participate in the upcoming edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup that will be held in Ipoh, Malaysia as the tournament will clash with the side's preparations for their Pro League matches. The annual event that usually features six teams, will be held from April 11 to 18. However, with the Pro League beginning in Berlin from April 25, the Manpreet Singh-led side will be busy in a national camp at Bengaluru from April 6.
“We will be in Bhubaneswar till the end of February and then we go back to Bengaluru. Then back again here in May. We were going to go for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup but our calendar is pretty full so unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out,” India chief coach Graham Reid told Hindustan Times. “Also, they changed the dates to April, so we had to cancel (it).”
For the last few years, the Azlan Shah was being held in March, however, the tournament was postponed to April in 2020. India had last skipped the edition in 2014. The Indian men's hockey side are the second-most successful team in the event, behind Australia. They have won the trophy five times, with their last win coming way back in 2010. However, India had been declared the joint-winners in that edition, after the final had been abandoned due to bad weather. They ended up sharing the trophy with South Korea.
Last year, Australia had withdrawn from the tournament due to the Pro League. The Indians, in the absence of the Kangaroos, had been touted as the firm favourites for the title in 2019, but were unable to walk away with the crown after losing hard-fought finals in the penalty shootouts (4-2) to South Korea after the regulation time ended with a score of 1-1.
India plays the Netherlands, the world number three side, Belgium, the world champions, and the defending champions Australia, over the course of the next two months as they start their preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Malaysia or South Korea, both of whom have not yet qualified for the multi-national event, could visit India in March for a Test series.