Plagued by injuries, India were forced to field a young but depleted 18-member squad under inspirational Sardar Singh for the Asia Cup. (Agencies)
With four key strikers -- Danish Mujtaba, S V Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- ruled out of the tournament due to injuries, India's forwardline is in shambles.
In Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah, the Indian forwardline has two debutants. Other strikers – Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh and Malak Singh too do not have much experience under their belt.
Defender Amit Rohidas is the other new entrant in the Asia Cup-bound team. Goalkeeper P R S reejesh has been named as Sardar's deputy in place of dragflicker V R Raghunath.
The list of injuries has made India's road much tougher in the Asia Cup, a tournament which they need to win to qualify for 2014 World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
And with not a single Asian country managing to secure a World Cup ticket yet, it would be a Herculean task for India to finish at the top of the podium.
For the eight-time Olympic champion India and neighbours Pakistan, the Asia Cup is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971.
To add to it, the failure to qualify for the World Cup will be a big embarrassment for the Indians who will be desperate to avoid the 1998 Beijing Olympics debacle.
However, the road to the semifinals should not be much of a problem for the Indians. India are placed in a relatively easy Pool B alongside Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.
Plagued by injuries, India were forced to field a young but depleted 18-member squad under inspirational Sardar Singh for the Asia Cup.