India hockey team captain Manpreet Singh believes his team has the capability of reaching the final of the Tokyo Olympics, provided a sense of discipline and consistency is maintained in the run-up to the event.
Leaving behind a disappointing 2018 where India crashed out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup at home, the Manpreet-led side has managed to maintain its consistency and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under a new coach in Australian Graham Reid.
Reviewing the year gone by, Manpreet said 2019 has been productive for the team in terms of its performances despite not getting enough opportunities to compete in high-level international tournaments.
“Looking back, 2019 has been very good for us,” Manpreet was quoted as saying by PTI. He added: “We started the year in the fifth spot and managed to maintain that. The biggest aim for us in 2019 was to qualify for the Olympics and we have managed to achieve that under a new coach.
“Our main target in 2020 is to reach the finals of the Olympics and, believe me, it’s achievable. Throughout the year we have managed to maintain the No 5 position in world rankings and there is no reason why we can’t climb from that. But, for that, we have to maintain the consistency which we have showed in the entire 2019.”
The ace midfielder, who has been nominated for the 2019 FIH Player of the Year award, said encounters against top teams like Netherlands, world champions Belgium and Australia in the upcoming FIH Pro league will give India a fair idea about where the eight-time Olympic champions stand.
India, who pulled out of the inaugural edition of the Pro-League, will play the Dutch side on January 18 and 19 before hosting Belgium on February 8 and 9, followed by two more home fixtures against Australia on February 22 and 23.
“The FIH Pro League is our first step towards Olympic preparation. In the Pro League, we will get to face all the top teams of the world before the Olympics and this experience will give us an idea where we stand before the Olympics,” Manpreet said.
The skipper said the biggest takeaway for Indian men’s hockey team in 2019 was the transition of quite a few young players into the senior fold.
“In 2019, we witnessed quite a few young players making it into the senior side,” he said. He added: “They performed to their potential at the international level and outsmarted some of the senior guys. It’s the biggest positive for us, especially in a busy year, where we will be competing at the FIH Pro-League be sides the Olympics.”