India must build on Champions Trophy success
The first-ever silver medal finish at the recently-concluded 36th FIH Champions Trophy was seen as a big boost for the national team’s preparations for the big one – the 2016 Rio Olympics – and to top it all came another hugely encouraging news of the team climbing two spots in the FIH world rankings to number five ahead of teams like Belgium, Argentina and New Zealand.
The fifth-place leap effectively means that India are carrying the Asian region’s flag flying high with the likes of South Korea and Pakistan languishing much below them.
The world ranking leap should serve as an ‘extra springboard’ for the Roelant Oltmans-coached side, who appear to be having a lot of things going for them with the Rio Olympics just two months away.
Of course, one should not press the ‘complacent’ button because most teams might not have revealed all the cards up their sleeve. Agreed, Germany were without the likes of drag-flicker Christopher Zeller, playmaker Moritz Fuertse and Christopher Ruhr; Australia were without the Rockhampton trio of Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles and Matt Ghodes and Belgium were without Tom Boon – what about India?
They too missed guys like skipper Sardar Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh – the point one is trying to make is that no one should belittle our silver-winning medal effort in London just because some of the top teams rested some of their key players – as we can justify by saying that our silver-winning efforts came despite having some of the key players in our ranks.
Olympics will be tough for India
Critically speaking, India must realise that Rio Olympics will be a different kettle of fish as compared to the Champions Trophy – not because the latter is an insignificant event but because all teams will use the coming two months to work on their shortfalls and put their best foot forward in Rio.
India seemed to have ticked most of the boxes, although our forward line barring SV Sunil, does not inspire confidence with the likes of Ramandeep, Nikkin, Akashdeep, Talwinder and Mandeep needing to really pull up their socks upfront – they show so much promise moving forward but appear to be indecisive in the opposition ‘D’ with their final finishing.
For a change, no one is coming down heavily on our defence, which has shown marked improvement but their propensity to easily concede penalty corners is a concern area – it’s a different matter altogether they are beginning to deny opposition from scoring off short corners – we saw how Australia could not score of their nine PCs against India.
One hopes that India works on these areas and springs a ‘big surprise’ at Rio.