Hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay backs India for podium finish in Tokyo
Indian hockey legend and former captain Dhanraj Pillay believes that Indian men’s hockey side is now strong again to win a medal at the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo after their last Olympic medal had come 40 years ago at the Moscow Games.
Under coach Graham Reid, the men’s side has been impressive both on the home soil and away, evident with their performances in the FIH Pro League.
Having played two matches each against Belgium, Australia, and the Netherlands, Manpreet Singh and co. have won four times and sit fourth on the FIH Pro League men’s table.
Although Dhanraj Pillay believes that the Tokyo Games will be very different, the four-time Olympian nevertheless has high hopes.
“The Olympics will be a different ball game since it is not the Pro League or qualifiers, as every country will come out with their own set of strategies,” Dhanraj Pillay told Times of India.
“But what I feel is that India is ready now for a podium finish at the mega-event.
“The Indian team can really outplay the likes of Belgium, Australia, Netherlands, Germany and Argentina. Basically, the fight is between these six teams for the podium finish,” added Dhanraj Pillay, who has had 339 caps for India.
Playing the ideal way
Graham Reid took over the reins of the national side in April 2019 and the team has since won the FIH Series Finals to qualify for the Olympic Qualifiers, won the Olympic Test event and eventually managed to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
With a blend of youth and experience, Graham Reid has so far won 23 matches, lost five and drawn thrice leaving the hockey wizard impressed.
“I was really hoping that the Indian hockey team would stand on the podium in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before the lockdown,” Dhanraj Pillay said.
“The Indian team, which has a good mix of seniors and juniors, was in top form in the way they played in the Olympic qualifiers and whatever tournaments they played in 2019 and in the first two months of 2020.
“Basically, after a very long time they played in a way the spectators and country wanted to see them,” the hockey wizard added.
The oldest chink in the armour
One of the biggest concerns for the Indian hockey team, before Graham Reid took over, was conceding last-minute goals that led the side missing out on many titles.
The Indian team had conceded late goals and lost matches against the Netherlands, Germany and Canada at the 2016 Olympics.
These shortcomings afflicted them during their match against arch-rivals Pakistan at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as well as in their semi-final defeat against Malaysia at the 2018 Asian Games.
Acknowledging that it is something that needs addressing, Dhanraj Pillay suggested that the Indian team change their approach.
“No doubt, we are conceding goals towards the fag end of the match but mainly due to the reason that the full team goes all out on the attack,” Dhanraj Pillay pointed out.
“Sometimes it’s better to be defensive rather than aggressive in your approach especially if you are in a winning position.
“They should practice these kinds of situations more as to how to hold the proceedings and pass the time which makes sense towards the closing stages,” the veteran suggested.