- Manoj Chaturvedi
- for BBC Hindi
If the Indian men’s hockey team has any desire, it is to stand on the podium with a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
But if there’s any bigger obstacle standing in the way of that dream, it’s Australia.
By the way, we all know Australia’s dominance in world hockey and every time since hockey’s inclusion in these games in 1998, Australia has come back as champions.
India have challenged to the final only twice in 2010 and 2014 and had to settle for the silver medal after losing to Australia on both occasions.
Apart from that, the team has been fourth on two occasions. It follows that India’s campaign has not been very bright.
There is no doubt that the team has undergone a complete transformation after India won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Now our team has the ability to conquer any team in the world. He has proved it this time too by performing brilliantly in the FIH Pro League. To come third in this shows the strength of India.
By getting at least one win over Spain, Argentina, England, Germany and Belgium in this league, India have shown that they are now a Big League team and can challenge any team on their day.
If the Indian team had won against France in this league or had won a few more matches, they would have topped the league or come second.
The team’s aim is to make the campaign golden
After the Tokyo Olympics, the team’s morale also increased thanks to consistent performances. This is the reason why this time he is thinking of getting the gold medal even with the presence of Australia.
Indian vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh said… We have played good hockey in the FIH Pro League and will do our best to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games this time. We have worked hard to improve the finishing and defense in the Bangalore field. Our team is moving in the right direction.
India’s experience in taking penalty corners over the years has also helped shape Harmanpreet’s thinking. We all know that turning corners into goals used to be our main weakness. But now we have world class drag flashes. In the latest FIH Pro League, Harmanpreet has made India’s might felt by scoring the highest 16 goals.
There is no doubt that in recent years our team has worked hard on fitness and now we maintain fitness like other teams. As a result of this, our team now fights fiercely until the last moment. In recent years, India have reversed results in many last-minute matches. Before, our team would lose control of the game after falling behind once, but that is not the case now.
Recently, when the Indian team went to Antwerp to play Olympic champions Belgium in the Pro League, it was already 1-3 in the first match with only eight minutes left in the match. But the Indian team fought back without giving up and not only equalized in the 52nd minute by Harmanpreet and in the 57th minute by Germanpreet, but also won the match in the tiebreaker.
The key role of coach Graham Reid
Indian team coach Graham Reid has played an important role in improving the skills of the players and also making them mentally strong. This is why now, whether the team is on offense or defense, there is no flurry. At the same time, it also taught the players to tackle cleanly and due to this, the Indian team has already started giving less penalty corners.
The reason behind the consistent performance of the Indian team is that the command of the team has been in the hands of the same coach for a long time. Before Graham Reid became manager, it was very difficult for us to have any manager. The reason for this was because of the interference in the work of the coach, conflicts were created and he was shown the way forward. But Graham Reid has been saved from becoming a victim of the country’s hockey masters by his behaviour. But surely the team has benefited from Graham Reid’s stay.
India have been placed in Pool ‘B’ along with England, Canada, Wales and Ghana in men’s hockey at the Commonwealth Games. Meanwhile, former champions Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan have been placed in Group ‘A’. From this it is clear that India’s group is a bit easier.
Hence, India have no difficulty in reaching the semi-finals by staying in the top two spots in their group. The difficulty will be in winning against any team in the semi-finals, against Australia, New Zealand or Pakistan.
He can be champion only after crossing Australia
If India reach the semi-finals by topping the group, their chances of playing in the final may increase. With this, he can avoid playing Australia in the semi-finals. But to become champions, India will have to conquer Australia. This job is not easy by any means.
The problem for the Australian team is that they did not participate in the FIH Pro League this time due to the spread of Kovid in the country, so the team may lack international experience. But Australia’s record in these games definitely speaks for its royalty.
I remember the Indian team playing very well when the 2010 Commonwealth Games were held at home, so it seemed that the gold medal dream could come true this time. The reason for this thought was to beat England 5-4 in the tie breaker. But as soon as the Aussie entered the final, the Aussie team kept India’s guise open. Australia marked the match like tennis by scoring eight goals in India.
It is true that we may have missed out on medals at the last Games on the Gold Coast. But in the last four years, India have made great strides under Graham Reid’s coaching and this has been reflected first in the Tokyo Olympics and then in the FIH Pro League. So, this time if the team dreams of a gold medal, there is also a chance that it will come true.
Last minute decision to send a strong team
Hockey India had earlier decided to send teams of young players to these games due to the short time between the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games to be held in China. The reason for this was to get a chance to win gold at the Asian Games. This way, the Indian team would have directly qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
But after the postponement of the Asian Games to 2023 due to the bad situation in China, India decided to send a full strength team to these games. That is why this team includes most of the players participating in the Tokyo Olympics.
Performance in these games will also help the team management get a real idea of their power. In fact, India are not due to play in any major tournament after that until the World Cup to be held at home in January next year. That is why the Commonwealth Games will be very important for him.