Commonwealth Games: After Tokyo high, India now 'targets' historic CWG Hockey gold
After a historic performance in Tokyo and rubbing shoulders with the best in FIH Pro League, the Indian hockey team will target the elusive CWG gold medal.
Indian men's hockey team defender Surender Kumar on Wednesday said they are eyeing an unprecedented gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which will put an end to Australia's dominance in the sport at the multi-sport event. Australia won six successive gold medals in men's hockey competitions since the sport was introduced at the CWG in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.
India has shown transformation since winning an Olympics bronze after 41 years in Tokyo and the Graham Reid-led side would look to better its silver medal-winning efforts at Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014. "Our target is to win the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. The rest will depend on our performances," Surender was quoted as saying by a Hockey India release.
After the Tokyo glory last year, India witnessed a lean patch as they finished third in the Asian Champions Trophy and Asia Cup -- two tournaments where the country fielded second-string sides. In the FIH Pro League too, India finished third. Surender believes exposure against top teams in the Pro League would keep them in good stead in Birmingham.
"The matches that we have played since the Tokyo Olympics have been quite good. We have played against strong teams and it has benefited us. "We executed our plans well and were also able to recognise the areas where we need to improve upon," the 28-year-old said. India is placed in Pool B alongside hosts England, Canada, Wales and Ghana. Surender said their first focus is to start well against Ghana on July 31.
"We are not taking any match lightly. Every team will enter the tournament to win the gold medal. Our current focus is on the first game against Ghana," he said. "We have been closely following the footage of opponents. Our coaches are making plans accordingly and we will hope to follow the same on match day. There will be no easy teams in the tournament and we will go game-by-game."
He further said their prime focus in training sessions has been on physical fitness and defence ahead of the Games. "Our focus in training sessions has been mainly on fitness, we have been working a lot on this aspect of the game. We have worked on getting stronger in other areas as well, especially in defence," Surender said.
Surender also had words of advice for youngsters like striker Abhishek and defender Jugraj Singh, who will be playing their first CWG. "We have told the players to not feel the pressure of performing at the Commonwealth Games and to take them as normal games. We have also been telling them that they have experience of playing against strong teams and hence, they are ready to perform in the competition."