Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh says the team is looking forward to meeting world champions Australia in the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia, from April 5 to 12.
India play their first match against South Korea on the opening day of the tournament.
India had a fruitful 2014 when they won the Asian Games gold after 16 years. The Sardar-led side also defeated the Netherlands after 18 years in the Champions Trophy and also overcame World No. 4 Belgium. They gave a tough fight to Australia as well to finish a creditable fourth in the tournament.
Now, the team is gearing up under new chief coach Paul van Ass to take on Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Malaysia and Canada for the title in Ipoh.
"The team is motivated post the Champions Trophy 2014, where we beat the top teams that are ranked higher than us. While we stood fourth in the tournament, there were stronger teams that finished lower in the tournament," Sardar said in a release.
"The upcoming tour will be tough but the boys are confident enough and we are looking forward to meeting Australia in the final."
It will be the first assignment for Dutchman Van Ass, who takes over the reins of the eight-time Olympic champions from Australian Terry Walsh.
Van Ass has recalled young strikers Mandeep Singh and Satbir Singh in the 18-member squad for the forthcoming event. Manipuri attacking midfielder Chinglensana Singh replaces Danish Mujtaba.
Versatile, speedy Gurbaj key, says vice-captain Sreejesh
A "versatile" and "speedy" Gurbaj Singh will be key to Indian hockey team's success in Ipoh, feels the national side's vice-captain and goalkeeper P R Sreejesh.
Sreejesh was all praise for Gurbaj's ability to play in the defence as well as upfront.
"He (Gurbaj) is growing with every game. I was amazed to see him in the recent Hockey India League. The way he defended and counter-attacked was amazing. His speed is the key which helps him to go forward and come back to the defence line in a short span of time. His versatile ability will be a boost to our defence as well as strikers in the upcoming tournament," Sreejesh said.
Talking about the tournament opener against Korea, Sreejesh said, "We met Korea last in the semi-final of the Asian Games. Although we had won that match we cannot do away with the fact that they are a very competitive and strong team with a good line of attack.
"To counter them we will have to be strong in all aspects of the game, with clear focus on trying to cash in on penalty corners. For me, I know they will try every possible way to sneak goals and I am up for the challenge. For sure we will want to start the tournament with a win."