The first round-robin league match at the Tokyo Olympics will be indicative of the side's preparedness, feels veteran hockey forward Ramandeep Singh.
The India men's national team will kickstart their Olympic campaign on July 24 against New Zealand. Reigning champions Argentina, hosts Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain are the other teams in Pool A.
Speaking to PTI about the implications of the opening match, Ramandeep said:
"A lot will depend on how we fare in the first match. A good result against New Zealand will set the right momentum for the rest of the tournament."
Tokyo Olympics simulation to bring out "match-mentality" in players
The team is currently training at the ongoing national camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Bengaluru.
The coaching staff has been simulating an international match situation in an effort to replicate the mood and intensity of the Tokyo Olympics. According to the Olympic schedule, a total of three teams have been formed with different combinations from within the core group.
Admitting it was necessary to give players a simulation of the competition scenario for the Tokyo Olympics, Ramandeep said:
"We wear the Indian kit, we get ready as though we are facing a tough international opponent, we do team activation (pre-match drills) just like we would before an international game and we also line up for the national anthem before the start of the match. Of course, there is a lot of excitement within the group, and this exercise of replicating the Olympic schedule is also a good way to test our bodies with two back-to-back games and then a day's rest. We are paying attention on recovery when we have back-to-back matches and so on. Though we missed out on traveling for international matches due to the pandemic, I feel this exercise of playing internal matches is really bringing out the match-mentality to the fore."
Ramandeep, who was part of the Indian contingent at the Rio Olympics in 2016, remained in top form until he sustained a serious knee injury during the Champions Trophy in 2018. It nearly cost him his career before he regained enough self-confidence to force his way back into the team.
Recapping the experience, Ramandeep said:
"I think 2016 and 2017 for me was really good, I was in good form and was doing really well but the knee injury during Champions Trophy in 2018 was a big setback. It took me about six-seven months to recover and just when I had begun playing, I had an ankle injury. But mid 2019 onwards I have been doing well and I believe I have returned to my old form."