After a year-long delay due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the much-awaited Tokyo Olympics is finally happening this year, between July 23 and August 8
With the aim of providing you with a comprehensive picture of where India stands overall, we will be putting together a series of articles focusing on the country's prospects in a variety of disciplines.
In this particular feature, we will be looking at hockey, which has been India's strongest suite in the history of the Olympics. India has once again managed to qualify both in the men's and in the women's disciplines for the second time in a row.
Indian men's hockey team
In men's hockey, India remains the most successful team in the history of the Games, with as many as eight golds, one silver and two bronze medals. Great Britain trails in second with three gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
While these statistics are flattering, they do not reflect the fact that India has failed to win a single medal in hockey in the last nine editions of the Games.
A glorious past, a lackluster present and a promising future has been the story of the Indian men's hockey team in the Olympics.
After four decades of decline and underperformance, the Indian men's hockey team finally seems to be back on track as it heads into the Tokyo Olympics. While India is still not the best in the world, they are definitely on track to regain their lost glory.
They have been consistently putting in winning performances against the best teams in the world, such as Australia, Germany, Belgium, Argentina, and the Netherlands. As a result, the team has climbed up the ladder and is presently ranked No. 4 in the world - their highest standing since the inception of the FIH rankings. India will definitely be one of the favorites to win a medal going into the tournament based on their current form.
India are placed in Group A, alongside Australia (World No. 2), defending champions Argentina (World No. 7), New Zealand (World No. 8), Spain (World No. 9) and Japan (World No. 15).
Being the second-highest ranked side in the group, India are likely to reach the knockout stage of the tournament. However, they cannot afford to be complacent and take any of their lower-ranked opponents lightly, as an upset defeat or two could dent their chances quite severely.
In the knockout stages (quarterfinal onwards), the real test for the Indian team will begin as they face top teams like Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and England. But if they are able to maintain their excellent form, they could beat any team in the world and go the distance to win the gold medal that has eluded them for over 40 years.
Indian women's hockey team
The Indian women's hockey team does not have a glorious past like their male counterparts but are a rising force nonetheless. They have broken into the top 10 in FIH rankings based on their consistent performances over the last few years and are presently ranked ninth in the world.
This is their third appearance at the quadrennial event and their second consecutive, with the others being in 1980 and 2016. They qualified for the Olympics by beating the United States in a nail-biting two-legged qualifier in 2019.
The Indian women's team is placed in Group A, alongside the Netherlands (World No. 1), Germany (World No. 4), defending champions Great Britain (World No. 5), Ireland (World No. 8) and South Africa (World No. 16).
Being the fifth highest-ranked team in their group, India has to punch above their weight and cause an upset or two in order to be in the top four and qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament. The matches against the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain could prove particularly tough, but if they can beat Ireland and South Africa, they could find a spot in the knockouts.
If they are able to qualify for the knockouts and cause an upset win or two, they just might contend for their first ever Olympic medal. It won't be easy by any means, but given their recent run of good form, you can certainly consider them as the dark horses.