After winning the gold in 1980, Indian hockey has not reached such heights in the Olympics. In the last eight editions of the quadrennial event, India have not returned home with a medal in hockey, but midfielder Devinder Walmiki believes the current crop of players have it in them to bring those glorious days back to India, and finish at the podium in Rio.
India were below par in London 2012, finishing last in the event, but they have a different coach and captain for Rio Olympics. Roelant Oltmans is the head coach, while PR Sreejesh replaced Sardar Singh as the captain for the games.
With a coach like Oltmans, one can expect some good tactics to catch the other teams by surprise. The players were involved in an important training camp in Bengaluru for a few days, and Walmiki is confident of providing a tough challenge to other teams in the competition.
"We have a realistic chance of returning with a medal. Roelant Oltmans and the other support staff have really shaped us well. The level of fitness that we have currently is of supreme standard. All of us are capable of playing the entire duration of the match with the same intensity. Other than fitness, our overall game has developed a great deal," the Times of India quoted Walmiki as saying.
India have been decent in some recent competitions, including managing a second place finish in the Champions Trophy, losing to Australia in the final. The competition reflected India as a strong team if they play as a collective unit, but did not impress in the six-nations hockey tournament in Valencia. It is such inconsistencies, which needs to be addressed in Rio, with the number of top teams in the draw.
India find themselves in Group B, along with Argentina, Canada, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Though India are expected to progress into the quarterfinals, it is in the knockout stages that Sreejesh's men will have a tough time.
They need to show their skills against the world-class teams, and come out with flying colours. Walmilki believes executing their plans to perfection can help them win a medal in Rio.
"All of us have the belief that we can do well against any opponent. All we need to do now is to execute the plans that are chalked out for a particular game. I think we are in with a great chance to return with a medal."