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Hockey: Indian men eye big win over Sri Lanka in Asiad opener

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After the islanders, the Sardar Singh-led side will face Oman on September 23 before more tough encounters against arch-rival Pakistan (September 25) and China (September 27).

Two-time gold medallist India, who stood top of the podium in 1966 and 1998, would definitely be looking for thumping wins over Sri Lanka and Oman to boost their confidence before they take on the big guns.

The Asian Games will be the first major international hockey competition to feature the new format where the duration of the game has been reduced from 70 to 60 minutes. The game will also be played in four quarters of 15-minute each instead of the regular two halves of 35 minutes each. There will be a 40-second time-out when a penalty corner is awarded and after a goal is scored.

The new format was introduced by the International Hockey Federation to make the game more fast-paced and viewer friendly and the Asian Games will be a test of character of India’s adaptability to changing rules.

India is the second-best among Asian teams in world rankings at no.9 behind four-time winners and tournament hosts South Korea.

But going by the amount of international exposure Terry Walsh’s boys had in the last one year, which includes the World Cup and Glasgow Commonwealth Games, India are definitely touted as one of the title favourites in the 17th edition of the Asiad.

For India, the added incentive to win the gold here is a direct berth to Rio Olympics as the winners of the Asian Games will earn a direct entry into the 2016 mega-event.

Having failed to utilise the opportunity in the last edition after losing to Malaysia in the semi-finals of the 2010 Guangzhou Games, the Indians would be desperate to avoid a repeat this time around.

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