Indian men’s hockey striker Akashdeep Singh has stated his side were lucky to have won some international competitions this year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. He also insisted that intra-squad matches during training are making up for the missed international opportunities while preparing for the Games.
The Indian team returned to international action after more than a year with successful European and Argentine tours. Out of the 10 matches they played on both tours, India won six games, losing just once, with the remaining three fixtures ending in stalemates.
However, the second wave of COVID-19 wreaked havoc in April-May, forcing other countries to impose travel restrictions on India. As a result, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) was forced to postpone India’s tours to Great Britain, Spain and Germany in the Pro League.
But Akashdeep Singh explained that the high-intensity intra-squad matches during training are helping the Indian team prepare well for the Tokyo Olympics.
“We are not letting it (no tours) play on our minds. Many teams have faced similar situations where tours or matches have been canceled due to the pandemic situation and we are not the only ones. With no international matches scheduled for now, in every training session and intra-squad matches we play every week, there is expectation to bring out our best and push each other to improve. I feel these intra-squad matches every week bring out the best in us ahead,” explained Akashdeep Singh, who was a part of the India’s 2018 World Cup squad.
No international tours likely before Tokyo Olympics
The lack of clarity regarding international tours also means that India are expected to head directly to the Tokyo Olympics. Akashdeep Singh, who was in the Indian squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics, also felt that the final Tokyo Olympics selection will depend on how the players are performing at training.
“I feel this period is extremely crucial for the players in the core group. We understand that our final selection into the 16-member squad for Tokyo Olympics will not just depend on how we have done in previous tours, but it will also depend on how we are performing in each training session,” Akashdeep Singh said.
Incidentally, it was on May 26, when India defeated Netherlands in the final to win its first of the eight Olympic gold medals. With more than 50 years since India last won an Olympic medal in hockey, Akashdeep is confident that the current team are capable of a podium finish in Tokyo.
“I feel this (training) also brings out healthy competition within the core group, at the same time we have also inculcated a great sense of ‘team comes first’ attitude. I strongly believe the current set of players have the ability to win a medal at the Olympics,” Akashdeep Singh concluded.