Indian hockey has been on an upward trajectory over the past decade.
Ever since failing to make the cut for the 2008 Olympics, the Indian hockey men’s team has steadily risen up the ladder ever since.
While they qualified for the 2012 Olympics, it wasn’t until Rio 2016 that the Indian hockey team showed their competitive side at the Olympic stage.
Riding on a quarter-final finish four years ago, the Indian hockey team has grown from strength to strength with every passing season. And it’s no surprise that the Manpreet Singh-led side will go into the 2020 Olympics as one of the favourites for a medal.
In fact, if hockey legend Ric Charlesworth is to be believed, an India vs Australia tie for the gold medal could be on the cards at the Oi Hockey Stadium in August.
“I feel both India and Australia have teams to win medals. The Olympics is often very unpredictable, so we will have to see what happens,” said Charlesworth, who won a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics.
“I would love to see an Olympics hockey final between India and Australia. That will be the best final.”
Indian hockey needs HIL
One of the primary reasons Charlesworth believes that have spurred Indian hockey’s growth during this period is the erstwhile Hockey India League.
The franchise-based league saw a number of top international stars hit the Indian shore for a month-long league, in turn helping the Indians raise the standard of their game. Launched in 2013, the league ran till 2018 before being put on hold for various reasons.
“I think it (HIL) was a critical part of making a psychological shift which India needed to say 'yeah! we can compete with anybody'. I feel the HIL needs to be revived to keep India abreast with world hockey,” the Aussie great opined.
Indian hockey team cannot afford to rest
But despite their recent success, the 68-year-old master tactician said that the Indian hockey team couldn’t afford to rest. “They (India) need to keep working, international hockey is very competitive. In Australia and India, we get carried away with cricket because both the countries are pretty good at cricket but cricket is played only by a half a dozen countries," he said.
"Hockey is much harder to do well, the international scene is pretty competitive. You have to work very hard and keep changing and improving. India was the innovator in hockey 50 years ago. They lost direction for a while but now they are on the way back."
And Charlesworth believed that the Indian hockey team is in good hands with his compatriot Graham Reid working as the chief coach.
“When I was a young player all our coaches were from the subcontinent. We learnt our hockey from here. Australians working with Indian teams make sense,” he said.