By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Indian males’s hockey group have an extended technique to go earlier than they will even be talked about in the identical breath because the squads which gained gold medals at eight Olympics however captain Manpreet Singh advised Reuters the present group have a real medal probability in Tokyo.
Essentially the most profitable hockey nation in Olympic historical past, India at the moment are mired in a drought that noticed them win their final medal on the 1980 Moscow Video games once they topped the rostrum.
Whereas hockey now shrinks in cricket’s shadow, Manpreet, who would be the nation’s flag-bearer in Tokyo, stated his group mates are prepared to revive some delight within the sport.
“We have now an excellent probability of a podium end in Tokyo,” the 29-year-old stated in a phone interview.
“There can by no means be sufficient preparation, however I don’t assume we may have ready any higher. We’re fitter than ever and fiercely aggressive.”
At the moment ranked fourth on the planet, India have by no means completed larger than fifth since Moscow however Manpreet stated they’d narrowed the hole on their rivals considerably.
“In current occasions, we’ve overwhelmed all the highest groups and our confidence is fairly excessive,” the midfielder added, referring to their efficiency within the FIH Pro League 2020-21.
India registered wins towards Argentina and Belgium, who gained gold and silver within the 2016 Rio Video games, and drew towards powerhouse Australia within the nine-team event.
Coached by Australian Graham Reid, India have additionally managed to do away with a few of their unhealthy habits, resembling their susceptibility to late objectives.
That weak spot significantly damage them within the semi-finals of the 2018 Asian Video games with Malaysia scoring a final minute equaliser after which prevailing on penalties.
“We learnt from that loss and I don’t assume we’ve conceded late objectives in current occasions,” stated Manpreet.
“Graham tells us, ‘assault can win us matches, however defence will win us tournaments’. We’ve labored actually arduous on our defence.
“As a substitute of conceding these last-minute objectives, we’re now scoring them. It exhibits how a lot we’ve improved stamina and fitness-wise.”
MAKING ATTACKS COUNT
Their assault is so much sharper too, with Reid demanding “consequence” from each raid into the opponent’s circle.
“Up to now, our assaults usually fizzled out within the circle. Now the thought is to make each assault rely,” Manpreet stated.
“If we are able to’t rating a subject objective, we must always have the ability to power a penalty nook and attempt to rating from there.
“What’s the usage of having a number of the greatest drag-flickers on the planet if you happen to can’t utilise their abilities?”
Manpreet is aware of what a medal in Tokyo, no matter its hue, may do for the sport’s profile in India. Whereas it is probably not sufficient to regain previous glory, hockey may a minimum of win again a number of the floor it has conceded to cricket.
Years in the past, Manpreet visited Balbir Singh senior, who was a part of three Olympic title-winning groups between 1948-56.
“He confirmed me his medals, and I bought goosebumps,” Manpreet stated of his assembly with the hockey nice who handed away final 12 months.
“That is the largest dream in my life now, to have an Olympic medal round my neck.”
India start their Pool A marketing campaign towards New Zealand on July 24.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; modifying by Peter Rutherford)