The glorious days of Dhyan Chand in Indian hockey when winning a gold medal was not an issue are long over. Today, even qualifying for the Olympics is a big feat for team India. The Indian men’s hockey team which has qualified for the Olympics 2012, after the humiliation of not qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is not very positive about winning a gold.
The senior players are also not expecting much from the current team. They have advised the team to work on the penalty corners, and to improve the conversion rates of corners into goals. ‘Unless the Indian team converts two out of three penalty corners into goals in every game, it is very difficult for the team to match the likes of Holland, Germany and Australia’, said Michael Kindo, part of the bronze-medal winning 1972 Munich Olympics team.
The other issue that the Indian team is facing is the blue turf at the Riverbank Arena inLondon, where all the hockey matches will be played. Our players have hardly had any practice on the blue turf, which is very slow compared to the normal astro-turfs or the grass turfs. India was able to win the bronze medal at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia recently (3 June 2012) without having much practice on the blue turf, and this has raised some hopes that India could still manage to win a medal in the Olympics.
India was able to win the bronze medal at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia recently (3 June 2012) without having much practice on the blue turf, and this has raised some hopes that India could still win a medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Indian players are gelling well with the Australian coach Michael Nobbs, and the fitness level has improved a lot in the last few months. India will start their campaign against the Netherlands on 30 July. India has been grouped with Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and Netherlands in Pool B, which is considered one of the toughest groups at the Olympics.
When the Indian team qualified for the Olympics, Hockey India announced a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh and an iPad for every player. The players were very happy with the gesture shown by the federation, and will be eager to give their best shot to the event. Though former players are expecting that a fifth or sixth position in the Olympics would be a good finish, the Indian team could come out as the dark horse and surprise their detractors. Well, at the cost of expecting the unexpected from this team, we may nurture hopes, however frail, that we can get a medal this time.