New Zealand have accepted India’s invitation to replace Pakistan for a four-nation field hockey tournament starting later this month, media reports said yesterday.
The tournament, also featuring reigning world and Olympic champions Germany and fourth-ranked Netherlands, is scheduled to be played in the northern city of Chandigarh from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9.
“We were keen on getting a good replacement for Pakistan, and New Zealand will make the competition even tougher,” tournament organizer Pargat Singh, a former India captain, told the Times of India newspaper.
Pakistan’s participation was ruled out due to heightened political tensions between the two countries following the deadly Mumbai attacks in November which India blames on elements in Pakistan.
The Indian government last month snapped sporting ties with Pakistan after the attacks.
The hockey tournament gives India a chance to test its mettle against three top teams as the eight-time Olympic champions rebuild after failing to qualify for the Beijing Games in August.
Germany won the gold in Beijing with a 1-0 win over Spain in the final, while the formidable Dutch finished fourth after losing to Australia in the bronze medal play-off.
New Zealand claimed seventh place at the Olympics with a 4-2 win over Pakistan in the classification round.
The next major world event for Germany and the Netherlands is the Champions Trophy in Melbourne in November.
India and New Zealand did not qualify for the elite six-nation tournament.
India are scheduled to tour New Zealand for a four-match series next month and take part in the Asia Cup in Dubai in May.