Defending champions Bangladesh national hockey team will fly for Oman today to take part in the Asian Games Qualification round with the hope of becoming champions.
The Asian Hockey Federation made a last moment change in the fixture after Indonesia pulled out their name from the qualification round.
Eight teams split into two groups will take part in the qualification round with top five teams joining with six top ranked Asian sides and hosts Indonesia in the final round of the Games, scheduled in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
Following the new groupings, Bangladesh have been drawn in Pool A alongside Hong Kong, Thailand and Afghanistan while Pool B consists of hosts Oman, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei and Kazakhstan.
Bangladesh will begin their campaign on March 9 with the match against Thailand before facing Hong Kong and Afghanistan on March 11 and 13 respectively.
Bangladesh qualified for the final round of the last edition of Asian Games by becoming unbeaten champions in the qualification round held in Dhaka in 2014.
‘We will go there with only hope of becoming champions,’ team head coach Mahbub Harun told reporters during a press conference on Monday.
‘We took very good preparation though I feel it could have been better if we had played one or two practice matches.’
Harun rested three senior campaigners — Imran Hasan Pintu, Pushkor Khisa Mimo and Kamruzzaman Rana for the qualifiers only to give the young players an opportunity of earning international exposure.
Deen Islam Emon, Sohanur Rahman Sobuj and Fazle Hossain Rabbi made it to the 18-member Bangladesh squad for the qualifying tournament in place of the trio.
‘As five top teams will qualify for the final round, I think this is the right stage to examine some fresh talent here, so we included three new faces,’ he said.
‘We didn’t drop the seniors. We just game them some rest for this tournament. We must consider them before the final round of the Asian Games.’
Captain Russell Mahmud Jimmy said they will try to continue their recent form in the international level.
‘Playing as defending champions is not a pressure for us. We became sixth in the Asia Cup after beating strong China and we wanted to continue this form in this tournament,’ said Jimmy.
‘We worked with our errors that we made in the last tournament in the last one month and the warm-up match that we will play against Kazakhstan two days before our first match would help us perform well.’
Bangladesh Hockey Federation chief Air Chief Marshal Abu Esrar unveiled the jersey of the team at a programme on Monday where representative of the sponsors First Security Islami Bank was also present.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Miscellany