Oman face Pakistan as Asian Champions Trophy begins


Oman coach K.K. Poonacha

DOHA: K.K. Poonacha coached Oman will meet Pakistan in the second edition of the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha starting.

The Oman Hockey Association (OHA), which recently called upon former Poonacha to take charge of the side, decided to send the team after previously announcing a pullout, citing poor preparations" for the big event.

"Do not expect any miracles from me as this is a very short time to prepare the team and in just seven days I don't think I can do much with the boys. All I can do is to give them tips because you have some of the best teams from Asia so it's going to be a challenging task for us," Poonacha told Times Sport before leaving to Doha.

Poonacha has recalled five senior players to the side which include Basim Khatir, Samir Hulais, Ashraf Talib, Mohammed Ayaad and Anwar Saad to the 18-member side.

Oman captain and keeper Abduljabbar Al Balushi said:  "For us this is going to be a learning experience. More than the results we are looking forward for the exposure. Playing countries like India and Pakistan itself is an honour for us and we are looking forward for it."

In the other matches today, defending champions India would look to open their title defence on a positive note against an unpredictable China while Malaysia will play the opening match against Japan.  The Sardar Singh-led India will approach the tournament with a new-found confidence and zeal having finished a creditable fourth in the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy in Melbourne earlier this month after competing as a wild card entry.

India lost to arch-rivals Pakistan, whom they defeated en route to the title here last year, to miss out on a bronze medal at the just-concluded FIH Champions Trophy in Melbourne. And this tournament would not only provide Sardar and his boys the opportunity to avenge their defeat at the hands of Pakistan but also make up for their disappointment in Melbourne, where they missed the podium by a whisker.

Impressed by the performance of the team in Melbourne, India has retained the same 18-member squad for Doha, an indication that the selectors are looking ahead to the future. 

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