The 26th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah gets underway from April 29 May 6 in Ipoh.
Six teams, namely Australia, India, England, Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia will participate.
With the all important World League Semi Finals to be held in June and July, teams will be looking at ironing out chunks as they use this tournament to finalise their squads and tactics ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.
Below is some insights provided by Malaysian Chief Coach Stephen van Huizen with regards to his team and the tournament as a whole.
A frank and positive outlook from the former international who knows that qualification for the 2018 World Cup is of paramount importance for Malaysian Hockey.
1) What are your expectations from this tournament?
SVH : Be competitive - after the ACT we are playing teams higher than us so good opportunity to gauge where we stand in our preparations for World League Round 3.
- Do u think teams will go all out or keep things in check given thatWorld League semis in June?SVH;They will try out some tactics and test their players readiness etc as well as study their opponents. For us we have England in our pool and India in the other pool who we might meet in the crossovers. Opportunity to get quality matches leading to R3
3) Often team performance is judged by achieving targets. Is it not the case this time around although the more important event is the world league semis?
SVH; All will try and do well as it builds confidence if we get good results but whatever target will be inconsequential if we do not do well in R3
4) Who are your picks for the title and why?
SVH ; Hard to say as most teams are rebuilding after Rio and some trying out new players. On paper Australis and India starts as favourites based on ranking and familiarity with conditions here
5) Contrasting team selection by India and Australia, the former picks a mix squad , the latter an experienced full squad, your assessment.
SVH; Australia and India have a good pool of players to they can try any combination they want. Besides India as host are automatic qualifiers so they can choose to experiment more but their squad even the juniors are very well exposed and won the JWC and the IHL has helped the young players confidence rubbing shoulders with some of the best players from overseas.