Tokyo Olympics 2020: India mens’ hockey team form guide – Strength, weaknesses, recent results
The current men’s hockey team under the captaincy of Manpreet Singh and guidance of coach Graham Reid, appears to be an improved unit. The recent results have showcased that this Indian team does not bow down in front of even the toughest of oppositions, and there appears to be an attitude in this team filled with young and experienced players.
So, will India’s men’s hockey team be able to end the 41-year-old Olympics drought and achieve a podium finish in Tokyo 2020? Here is a look at India hockey team’s form guide:
Goalkeeper: PR Sreejesh
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra
Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit
Forwards: Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh
Standbys: Krishan Pathak (goalkeeper), Varun Kumar (defender) and Simranjit Singh (midfielder)
The presence of veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh in the team is perhaps one of the biggest strengths of this team. Sreejesh has an excellent defensive line to support him with the likes of Harmanpreet Singh and veteran Rupinder Pal Singh included in the ranks. Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas are also in form and their pairing is the reason why India have improved over the years in defending set-pieces. Harmanpreet and Rupinder Pal have also been excellent in the past couple of years on penalty corners and their improved drag-flicking abilities can help India in a long tournament like the Olympics.
The big worry for captain Manpreet Singh would be the team’s forward line at the Olympics. India feature a relatively young line of forwards in the team with Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh being included, and Akashdeep Singh, SV Sunil, and Ramandeep Singh missing out. Coach Graham Reid, in a recent press conference, refrained from pointing out reasons for picking and dropping individual players but maintained that the humidity factor in Tokyo and players’ fitness levels was one of the major criteria behind the team’s selection. Lalit Kumar Upadhyay has been a revelation over the years, and Mandeep Singh has also been in good form. But in Tokyo, a large portion of the responsibility to make circle penetrations will be on these two players.
India had a fantastic start to their road to Toyko last year when they picked up wins over World champions Belgium, and the 2018 World Cup runners-up Netherlands. India also picked a win over Australia in March 2020, before Covid-19 put a stop to the sporting world and the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. India re-started their road to Tokyo in 2021 and travelled to Europe for matches against Germany and Great Britain in February-March. Despite no practice games before, India returned unbeaten, with two wins and two draws on the tour. Even though Germany and Great Britain did not play several of their first-team players, it was still seen as a successful result for the Indian team. India also defeated Argentina twice in the FIH Pro League games (one on penalty shootouts) in April this year. But Covid’s second wave in India halted future participation in the tournament for Manpreet Singh’s team and it means that they will enter Tokyo 2020 without having played any game for over four months.
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