MALAYSIAN juniors will know their standings in the world when they are pitted against some of the best juniors in the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) beginning Sunday at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor.
Defending SOJC champions India hope to ride at the back of their seniors Asian Games winning streak to defend their gold. The other teams silver medallist Malaysia will be up against are Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Great Britain.
Much is at stake in Johor, as the SOJC is the only under-21 tournament in the world which is sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), the other being the Junior World Cup.
Coach Arul Selvaraj, who named his final 18 yesterday, said that he has selected the best in the country, and it is a balanced squad.
"This is the first tournament for the boys since the team was formed in June, so they are also an unknown entity. However, I expect them to give their best, and of course we would like to play in the final, but there is no early target for these boys," said Arul.
The team is being groomed for the 2016 Junior World Cup in India. For the record, Malaysia finished fourth in the last World Cup, also in India.
Today, Arul's boys will open accounts against Australia at 8pm.
India, riding high on their intense training sessions of the last few weeks, are looking at nothing less than a golden harvest.
Led by captain Harjeet Singh India will open accounts against New Zealand today: "We are a new team but we have the same old dream to retain the Sultan of Johor Cup with us. We have been practicing together as a single unit for the last few weeks and are very confident on achieving the goal. Our first match against New Zealand is crucial as starting a tournament on a winning note will boost the morale of the team and will help continue the winning dominance," said Harjit.
As for India coach Harendra Singh: "The team is geared up for the SOJC and without carrying any burden of previous achievements, we will focus on playing high-level and technically sound hockey”.
MALAYSIA: Ridzwan Azmi, Fitri Jasni, Ashran Hamsani, Luqman Nul Haqim, Azril Misron, Najib Hassan, Meor Azuan, Sufi Ismat, Haziq Samsul, Firdaus Omar, Norsyafiq Sumantri, Amirol Aideed, Shahril Saabah, Syed Shafiq, Ahmad Ashraf, Azwar Rahman, D. Selvanayagam, Najmi Farizal.
SUNDAY: Pakistan v Great Britain (4pm); New Zealand v India (6pm); Malaysia v Australia (8pm).