Veteran India dragflicker VR Raghunath thinks that the current team is better prepared for the Olympics than the side which finished eighth in the previous edition in Rio de Janerio. India had lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals in the 2016 Summer Games. Raghunath is not in the list of Olympic probables this time. “The Canada match which we drew cost us in 2016. That result put us in a different qualification group. But I feel the current batch of players can handle the Olympics a lot better,” said Raghunath in a Hockey India release.
“The same batch of players have been around for seven-eight years now, they are in touch with European players. They can perform much better than Rio,” he added.
At the Olympics, it is all about winning those close games, said Raghunath, who is currently the vice-president of Karnataka Hockey Association.
“It comes down to one or two matches and how you get your rhythm right in the arena. I have seen teams keeping it simple and playing with a free mind. I’d tell the players not to think much about the occasion,’ he said.
“The players are in the same age group and have been quarantined together for a long time so they are familiar with each other and have been winning Pro League games as well.
“Players like Rupinder and Manpreet were around in the previous edition as well. They have covered every area well,” the 32-year-old added.
The former Asian Games champion was full of praise for current vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh, who took over drag-flick duties from Raghunath.
“Harman had immediately arrived after the U-21 World Cup win. There were instructions from the coaches to take him under our wing; to protect him at least for 30-40 matches so that he could get an idea of what international hockey is all about. We guided him and he grasped things very quickly,” said Raghunath.
“We could see the results in just 3-4 months. He started scoring as well. Rupinder Pal Singh and I tried to treat him like a brother and not as a player. Our coaches have moulded us in such a way that the juniors are comfortable around the seniors.
“He has come a long way over the last four years, and I feel, he has another 8-10 years of international Hockey in him. Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas have also entered the mix. This is good for Indian hockey as we are not sure when a player will be down with an injury.”
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