Indian hockey team needs to start afresh in run-up to Olympics: VR Raghunath

Veteran star feels past performances mean nothing as good form during the Asian Champions Trophy in November and the FIH Pro League next year will matter.

By Subhayan Dutta

Veteran Indian hockey player and drag-flicker Vokkaliga Ramachandra Raghunath believes that a stern psychological test awaits the Indian hockey players as they return after a long break.

The Asian Champions Trophy scheduled in November this year will be followed by tours to Malaysia and New Zealand before the Indian hockey team leaves for a string of FIH Pro League fixtures on the road.

Good results away from home against strong teams like Argentina, Spain, Great Britain and Germany will be the real test and VR Raghunath believes that the Indian players will need a lot of mental strength to keep them going.

Indian hockey men's team are looking at a relentless few months leading up to the Tokyo Olympics next year.

“The Indian team's fitness is top class and they will continue to build on this plus point in the next one year,” VR Raghunath told Hockey India, “But, having the right mindset in their approach and staying mentally positive will be very important.

"How the players cope mentally in this new scenario, how they approach every day mentally and once they start training and playing matches, how they will cope with the pressure and the results will matter a lot.

“Usually in the lead up to the Olympics, the last six-eight months pass by really fast and the team must be absolutely prepared physically and mentally," pointed out the former defender who won the 2014 Asian Games and the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy silver with India.

Pressing reset button

After successfully booking their place in the Tokyo Olympics last year, Graham Reid’s India carried their form good into the FIH Pro League with home wins against the fancied Netherlands, Belgium and Australia.

However, their impressive form was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the players confined to the SAI Centre Bengaluru for over two months. 

VR Raghunath now believes that the team will need to start their Tokyo 2020 preparations from scratch as they reassemble at the camp in Bengaluru.

"It is time to start afresh,” the former Indian defender said. “I think the team must take this period as a one-year countdown and forget everything that's happened in the last six-eight months.”