"Not surprised," says Graham Reid after Indian men floor Belgium and Spain ahead of Olympic qualifiers
Every competitive sport does have its share of trivia - some of which seems to defy logic - but few pundits have been able to come with a plausible explanation as to how one of the most successful teams in modern hockey has just one Olympic gold medal to boast of.
Athens - the city from where the modern Olympic Games, was launched was chosen to host the extravaganza yet again in 2004, and Aussie legend Jamie Dwyer scored an extra-time goal in the finals against the Dutch which ended his side's 'Olympic hoodoo'.
Yet, the Aussies have quite inexplicably failed to record a second Olympic triumph since that memorable August in the Greek capital, in spite of winning two World Cups (2010 and 2014) and a mind-boggling eight Champions Trophy titles between 2005 to 2018.
Whether or not the kookaburra’s Olympic hiccups are a result of bad luck or a lack of consistency is highly debatable, but Aussie coach Graham Reid knows more than a thing or two about being part of indomitable sides.
As a player, the Queenslander was part of an awe-inspiring Australian unit that won four Champions Trophy gold medals and two silvers in the 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to winning silver at the Barcelona Olympics of 1992.
Indian men on a roll under Graham Reid
Not surprisingly, the efficacy of being consistent seems to be imbibed in Graham Reid's DNA - and the coach of the Indian Men's Hockey side said he was pleased but not surprised after the Indian men recorded comprehensive victories with resounding margins against Spain and Belgium as part of a European tour.
In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, the veteran coach was candid enough to admit that while the Belgian Red Lions did not field their best side for the tour matches, it was how the boys tamed the Spanish Red Sticks that pleased him the most.
The Indian men's team who began the year in a rather disappointing fashion by losing to a lower-ranked South Korean side in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup seem to have bounced back in style winning the FIH Series Finals and the Olympic Test event under Reid's tutelage.
For the Australian, whose India stint began with a tour Down Under post the Azlan Shah Cup, it's been a journey to savour with Manpreet Singh and co. recording emphatic wins against Belgium and Spain - which assumes greater significance because the Indians were not part of the Pro League action earlier this year, as Reid pointed out.
Because we haven't played the Pro League, we have been trying to ramp up our internal matches and trying to make them as competitive as possible. I was pleased with what level the boys were at while we were touring in Europe.
We also trained with the Dutch there which was good. We did some good GPS numbers which tell us how hard we need to train to be at that level.
The Indians remained unbeaten after thrashing Spain by scorelines that read 5-1 and 6-1 and ended the tour by pummelling Belgium 5-1 after having beaten the World and European champions by a 2-1 margin and two goals to nothing earlier on.
Reid said he was not surprised by either the victories or the margins, but refused to be elated, and stated categorically that the Belgians had not fielded their strongest side for the matches.
Was I surprised? - no. There are several factors and I think this team can beat anyone on their day when we play consistently well across quarters, across games, and tournaments.
So from that aspect, I was pleased to have the kind of results that we had in Europe.
Against Belgium, we played the A team mixed in with a half a dozen international players from the gold-medal winning World Cup side - so that was really good in terms of the competition, but I was pleased with how we played against Spain - those two games were class.
"Creating quality goalscoring opportunities has been our objective"
SV Sunil and Lalit Upadhayay have not played much international hockey recently but the Indian strikers ran riot and the man at the helm stressed that creating quality opportunities has been a key objective of late.
It's always nice to score goals, and one of our objectives has been to create more quality opportunities which I think we probably did. We also put them away which makes a major difference to the scoreline and also the scoreboard pressure.
We saw that during most of the games. It is always good to see the players you mentioned (SV Sunil and Lalit Upadhyay) back playing hockey which is what they love and what they are very good at.
The immediate aim is, of course, the Olympic qualifiers in less than a months’ time - and although Reid seemed reasonably happy with the performance of his wards, he was quick to point out that there was some work which needed to be done in order for the team to be at their peak when they take on Russia at the Kalinga Stadium.
As a coach, you are never really happy with the level at which your team is playing at especially with this group that has such a huge upside, but I am always trying to find better ways to work and to play.
I was very pleased and also very proud of the way the boys played over the last couple of weeks or so but we always have things to work on and be at our absolute peak against Russia.
Consistency is indeed the buzzword for a man who has worked extensively in the Dutch hockey set up which is considered to be one of the very best in the world.
For me, the biggest positive to have come from the trip has been the consistency with which we played. When I started back in April, I spoke about how we needed to develop a consistent performance base and that is probably what I enjoyed seeing with this group.
Each performance was built on the previous. We kept improving and working on things and you saw that in the outcomes that we got on the field.