The Indian men’s hockey team has always had to deal with tremendous pressure of expectations. Once every four years, a talk of how India used to be a powerhouse in hockey and comparisons of the teams from yesteryear come back to haunt the Indian team.
The Indian team last won a gold at the Olympics in Moscow in 1980. 36 years later, the men's team finished eighth at Rio.
As we approach the Tokyo Olympics 2021, here are 3 reasons why India should be well poised to win an Olympic medal in men's hockey this time.
#1 Successful hockey tour to Europe & Argentina should stand India in good stead
India is now rich with match practice against the top teams like Belgium, The Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Spain, Argentina and New Zealand, having taken part in the FIH pro-league. The experience of playing against these teams would give the Indian team a sneak peek of how formidable they are.
The recent tour to Germany should stand India in good stead. Winning and drawing against the likes of Germany and Great Britain after a lull of one year owing to the COVID-19 break, is one of the biggest positives the team can take into the Tokyo Olympics. The European sojourn should be a shot in the arm for India’s confidence levels.
India did decently against Argentina too. Although they were beaten by a narrow margin in one match, the aggressive brand of hockey that India dished out was spectacular.
#2 Graham Reid’s influence
Indian hockey seems to have taken a turn for good after Graham Reid took the reins. The Australian, who has an Olympic silver and multiple Champions Trophy gold medals in his kitty, has the experience of working with top-ranked teams like The Netherlands and Australia. Reid is a tough taskmaster and his aggressive approach would do a world of good for India, especially when pushed to the wall.
Reid, along with strength and conditioning coach Robin Arkell, has been instrumental in working on the mental aspects of the game. At the Sports Authority of India (SAI) training center in Bengaluru, mental exercise and mental well-being are a part of India’s training regimen. After the coronavirus-induced break, the players and the coach have got more time on their hands to work on the mental game in crunch situations.
#3 Healthy team combination
The Indian hockey team has a healthy mix of youth and experience. The team will be led from the front by Manpreet Singh, who has been a part of the Indian team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. PR Sreejesh is another player who has been with the Indian set-up for more than a decade and a half.
India is scheduled to play five matches in a little more than a week’s time at the Olympics and with the line-up boasting of many young turks, fatigue shouldn't be a factor for India. Also practicing at home in humid conditions will stand India in good stead at the Tokyo Olympics 2021 since the weather at the Japanese capital is expected to be similar.