India climbs to 5th place in rankings in world hockey
It has been a tremendous past twelve months for Indian Hockey – an entity that had ruled the sport for decades in the former century but had to sink to the lowest of lows with the turn of the new millennium has now resurfaced at the world stage in striking fashion. A bronze medal at the 2015 Hockey World League finals, an Olympic berth for the women’s team after a hiatus of 36 years and an unprecedented silver medal win at the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy later, the men’s team from India now sees itself placed in 5th spot among all the contenders in international hockey.
Becoming a Top Five nation has not come easy for the Indian outfit. Not too long ago, in 2008, the same unit failed to earn a place to take part in the Beijing Olympics, which was followed up with a last place finish out of the 12 teams who participated in the event at London 2012. With merely six weeks to go for the 2016 edition of the Summer Games to flag off at Rio de Janeiro, India are comfortably seated in the 5th position with 1689 points at this moment, 56-point ahead of sixth-placed Belgium who have 1633.
This also happens to be the best-ever ranking achieved by the Men in Blue since the ranking system was initiated by FIH in 2003. Athens Olympics’ year 2004 was the last time India had broken into the Top Five.
Expressing his delight at the latest standings was Hockey India president Mr Narinder Dhruv Batra who also chose to stay clear of complacency by emphasising on the need to fare well in the 2016 Rio Olympics by carrying forward the momentum gathered from the spirited Champions Trophy 2016 display in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – the same turf where the team had lost all five of their group fixtures in 2012 before falling to South Africa in the 11th-12th place play-off.
With 2361 points, Australia are miles ahead as the leaders in world hockey rankings – but as witnessed in the final match of the Champions Trophy earlier this month, in terms of performance, India aren’t lagging far behind. Holding the favourites to a goalless draw in regulation time of a tournament finale is testimony enough of their present capabilities.
Eyes on Rio, the 5th-ranked Indian team will keep surging ahead, firing on all cylinders till their once-familiar throne is reclaimed.