Bharat Chhetri on why Indian hockey teams can win medals in Tokyo Olympics

The former skipper reckons both the men’s and women’s teams’ distinctive style makes them capable of a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics.

By Rahul Venkat

Former Indian hockey captain and goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri is confident that both the men’s and women’s teams are looking good for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Both teams made the Tokyo cut in November last year, with the Indian men’s team beating Russia while the women went through a more nerve-wracking qualifying win over the USA, with skipper Rani Rampal’s goal sending them through.

Bharat Chhetri draws “immense joy and satisfaction” to see the current state of the teams having watched both from close quarters.

“I feel the current teams are probably the best in terms of their fitness, their style of play and the coordination,” Bharat Chhetri told Hockey India.

“This level of coordination was something that was lacking in our teams of the past which perhaps was one of the reasons we have been unable to perform exceptionally on occasions, despite having all the talent.”

In recent times, the Indian hockey teams have been defined by their energy and ability to mount relentless attacks, with chief coaches Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marijne emphasising a need to promote younger players.

The Indian hockey team. Photo: Hockey India.

It’s why a 27-year-old Manpreet Singh is captain of the men’s team and though Rani Rampal has spent a lot of time as women’s team captain, she is still only 25 years old.

“There is the right mixture of youth and experience in our ranks. The midfield and attack for both the teams is quite potent, lively, efficient and effective,” opined Chhetri.

“Both teams are also similar in their composition - both Savita Punia and PR Sreejesh are experienced goalkeepers and have a steady defence ahead of them.”

Chhetri, a London 2012 Olympian, who has worked with the Indian hockey teams as goalkeeping and assistant coach, was unable to fulfill his aim of winning a medal for his country.

But his love for the game has not diminished and the 38-year-old Chhetri sees a potential chance to live through the dream experience of winning an Olympic medal next year.

“The older Bharat, as a fan of Indian hockey, just wants to see these amazing teams win medals at Tokyo. It is not just a dream, it is a belief,” Chhetri signed off.