Rio Olympics 2016: Dhanraj Pillay confident about Indian Hockey team's potential
With just more than two weeks to go for the 2016 Rio Olympics, all focus is on the Indian senior men’s hockey team as they put the finishing touches to their Olympic preparations. Indian team is expected to go the distance considering the ‘highs’ they have scaled winning silver and bronze in last two FIH-sanctioned events. Former Indian captain and centre-forward Dhanraj Pillay believes the 16-member squad appears redoubtable on paper.
“I think this Indian team wears a formidable look – the team has a right balance of youth and experience. Of course, we are going to miss Birendra Lakra due to injury, overall this team reminds me of the team of the 2000 Sydney Olympics where we had guys like Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur among others,” he says in an informal chat.
Pillay, who turned 48 a couple of days back, agrees that the team will need to work hard to live up to the lofty expectations of the hockey fans in the country and abroad. “It’s not going to be easy – the boys will have to play out of their skins as nothing will come on a platter,” he quips.
There is talk that the Indian forward line is short of looking ‘complete, but Pillay refuses to buy that. “SV Sunil is vastly experienced and has been playing for a long time – the likes of Akashdeep, Nikkin and Ramandeep have shown maturity – I don’t see any concerns about our forward line,” he quips.
The four-time Olympian is of the opinion that Sardar Singh – free from the captaincy responsibility – will be even more lethal. “He is one of the pillars in centre-half – there is no doubt that he is a class act. Now he is a just team member which will serve him well as he can play with a lot of freedom. It is important from India’s perspective that Sardar is at his best,” he observes.
Pillay does not believe that it is the end of the road for Gurbaj Singh, who was not picked in the Olympics after he took the legal route following a nine-month ban slapped on him by Hockey India. “He will not be there for Rio but I think he can still come back. Gurbaj has hockey left in him and he is an asset,” he signs off.