Former India drag-flicker VR Raghunath feels that it is counterproductive to keep experimenting with different combinations for the national hockey team. Raghunath has recommended a core group of players training together continuously as India prepare for their Tokyo 2020 campaign.
Despite being at the top of his game, Raghunath took international retirement three years ago. On one side, there’s the 30-year-old representing Indian Oil Corporation in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup, proving that he still has it in him, while on the other, the Indian national team is preparing for the Olympics next year.
"I don't find any logic in it. I would like to have a pool of 22 players and train them hard to prepare them for big events. If the Olympics is approaching fast, there is no point in experimenting with your team. It doesn't pay off," Raghunath told TOI on Friday.
Although he disagrees with the rotation policy, the man who has 228 caps for the national side reckons that India is currently one of the best teams in the world and a sure bet to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
"We have missed a great chance of direct qualification by losing the Asian Games final. But we can't waste time thinking about what happened in the past. It's better to plan for the upcoming Olympics qualifiers and earn a direct entry like a true champion. It's a huge advantage to play in front of the home crowd and I am sure the kind of team we have now, there is absolutely no doubt that we'll make it the Tokyo Games," he said.
Things weren’t always so bright in Indian hockey, especially during the days of Raghunath, Sardara Singh, and Sandeep Singh. But it has been a remarkable journey since then – an Indian team was in a very poor shape, ranked at a lowly 12th in the world – to be among the top-5 teams for such a long time.
"Other Asian teams like South Korea and Malaysia were ahead of us and we had very tough times going against them. And on many occasions, we couldn't even qualify for the Champions Trophy. But things have changed now. We won two back-to-back silver (in 2016 & 2018) and also bagged two bronze medals (2012 & 2014) in the Champions Trophy, which is a huge feat.
The teams like Australia, Holland and Germany dominated us for years but now we have narrowed the gap. They are afraid of us as we have beaten them on several occasions in the last few years. The team is going in the right direction and I am sure, India will hit top form very soon," Raghunath signed off.
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