Sardar Singh: Tokyo team effort can win India Olympic medal

Two-time Olympian Sardar Singh thinks the current team led by Manpreet Singh can bring home India’s first hockey medal at the Summer Games since 1980.

By Utathya Nag

Former Indian men’s hockey team captain Sardar Singh thinks the Tokyo-bound national probables have the potential to break Indian hockey’s four-decade-long medal drought at the Olympics.

India were a superpower in the world of hockey, winning a staggering eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics from 1928 to 1980.

However, since captain Vasudevan Baskaran led India to a gold at the 1980 Moscow Games, success at the Olympic stage has eluded the nation. 

According to Sardar Singh, the barren spell may finally end at the Tokyo Summer Games next year.

"We are No. 4 in the world rankings now and that is a positive sign. We have a proper structure in place and there are good coaches to take care of things,” Sardar Singh said during a webinar with Sportstar.

Sardar Singh represented the Indian hockey team at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics.

Manpreet and Sreejesh need support

In the past few years, Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh and veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh have emerged as the talismen for the current team. A little consistency from the rest of the squad, Sardar says, can help India to a podium finish in Japan next year.

“All our 16-17 players should perform at the same level. (PR) Sreejesh or Manpreet (Singh) alone can't win matches for you. We need everyone. With that consistency, we will be good enough to reach the semi-finals or even the finals,” Sardar stated.

Sardar Singh, who represented the Indian hockey team from 2006 to 2018, said the squad was preparing well as a team and has developed a winning mentality.

Known for his mental fortitude on the hockey field, Sardar Singh was India’s vice captain under Bharat Chetri during the London 2012 Olympics. Sardar also played the Rio 2016 Games.

Former Indian hockey team goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza, who was Sardar’s teammate during his playing days, echoed the 2014 Asian Games gold medal-winning captain’s sentiments and added that youngsters in the current team need to enjoy the occasion.

“Whether it is at Tokyo or any other big event, all that our youngsters have to do is what they love the most, which is to play hockey. And that is the primary goal - to play the sport as you know it,” D'Souza stated.

With less than 11 months to go for the start of Tokyo 2020, the core group of Indian hockey players shortlisted for selection to the final Olympic squad have been training together at the national camp at the SAI Centre at Bengaluru.

There was a slight bump in the road with six players, including Manpreet, testing positive for COVID-19 at the start of the camp. The players, however, have recovered from the infection and preparations for Tokyo are progressing in full flow.

The camp concludes on September 30.