From dominating the Olympic Games in the 1900s to finishing 12th at the 2012 London Games, the Indian men’s hockey team has come a long way as they gear up for the Tokyo Olympics. Having maintained an unwanted consistency in the Olympic Games, the Men in Blue finally seem to be ready to break free of the shackles of a 7th or 8th place finish this time around.
When a new and uncertain Indian Hockey team went to their first Olympics in 1928, they stunned the world as they took home a gold medal. The team never looked back since and was and still is India’s pride and glory. Over the course of around fifty years the team brought home 11 medals, 8 of which were gold.
Unfortunately, after the 1980 Moscow Olympics where India took home the gold, the team is yet to regain that title, not even finding a medal at the Olympics to date. The new team that was announced for the Tokyo Olympics is certainly one that may be able to break the 41-year-old drought in a country that was once considered the best in hockey.
With the Indian men’s hockey team’s newfound consistency, the side looks set for a top-five finish if not on the podium. With form and experience on their side, the Men in Blue will be a force to reckon with at the Summer Games. Ahead of the Games, we bring to you a SWOT analysis of the side that will be gunning for a podium finish in Tokyo.
SWOT Analysis of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh‘s experience and the side’s defence line led by the veteran is the team’s greatest strength. Sreejesh boasts 230 caps and his decade long experience will be the key to holding the side together. The veteran has been excellent in front of the goal post in the last few years and has won games for India single-handedly.
India’s defence which features Birendra Lakra, vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh and the towering Rupinderpal Singh looks solid. They have been phenomenal over the last years and are more than capable of keeping the best of forwards at bay. The young midfield led by captain Manpreet Singh has been impressive too. Breaching the Indian defence will be the toughest task at the Games this edition.
While the defence of the Indian men’s hockey team is rock solid, their forward line lacks the edge. The Indian attack is experienced with the onus resting on the shoulders of Mandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay. The three young guns, Gurjant Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Shamsher Singh, share a total of fewer than 100 caps among them.
Coach Graham Reid has taken a huge gamble flying to Tokyo without the dynamic trio of Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and SV Sunil. It will be interesting to see how the debutants perform on the grandest stage. The fact that the Punjab lads have not played much together on the international level is yet another concern for the side.
The 16 man squad features 10 debutants, an unusual sight at the Olympic Games. While the move might backfire, there is an opportunity that the youngsters might rise to the occasion to make a mark. All eyes will be on the Punjab lads Gurjant, Dilpreet and Shamser who will be manning India’s offence.
Much like their women counterparts, the Indian men’s hockey team has nothing much to lose given their past performances in the event. Instead, if the youngsters shine at the Tokyo Olympics, the side will get some dynamic players for the future, a core to build the side around as the seniors prepare to hang their boots.
Having been placed in Group A, the Indian men’s hockey team is expected to make it to the quarterfinals. India is placed with Australia, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, and Spain. Placed at number one, Australia is the only better-ranked team than India in the group. Given the Men in Blue’s form, the knockout stages seem a certainty.
India is expected to face a stifling challenge in the quarters as they go toe to toe with some big guns featuring in Group B. With teams like Belgium, Netherlands and Germany waiting for the Indian men’s hockey team in the knockout stages, we are set for some mouth-watering clashes. The team is more than capable of a podium finish and the nation is confident that they will be ending the country’s 41-year old medal jinx.