Former Indian hockey star Tushar Khandker feels that the current national team has raised the level and developed a self-belief to perform well against the top teams of the world. The Indian men's hockey team will begin their 2021 Tokyo Olympics campaign against New Zealand on July 24.
With the clock ticking closer to 23 July when the Olympic Games 2020 officially kicks off in Tokyo, the eagerness to watch the Indian athletes achieve success is palpable. Expressing his excitement ahead of the most awaited global event, Olympian Tushar Khandker said the Indian Men's Hockey Team will be one of the strong contenders for a podium finish. "Definitely I am excited to watch the Olympics. I feel the way the team (Indian Men's Team) is doing right now; they are a strong contender to finish on the podium," stated Tushar who engaged in a free-wheeling conversation with Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series initiated by Hockey India ahead of the Olympic Games.
He further expressed that India's past experiences has taught important lessons and players understand very well what small mistakes can do in big-ticket events such as the Olympics. He said, "We have learnt from each of the Olympic Games. While we didn't qualify in 2008, we finished 12th in London and 8th in Rio. We learnt from the mistakes we made in 2012, and players part of the London Olympics like Sreejesh, Manpreet, Sunil, Danish Mujtaba, Raghunath (and others) who also got to play in Rio had told themselves the team won't make the same mistakes they made in London. Likewise, I am sure players who were part of the Rio Olympics will caution the team of the errors they need to avoid making in Tokyo."
Tushar who was part of the Indian Men's Team support staff between 2014 to 2016 as the Assistant Coach believes the current squad has raised the level in every aspect. "I feel the current team has raised the level and they have developed a great sense of self belief that they can do well against top teams of the world. After a slump in 2008-09, it has taken us 10-11 years to climb to this level we are at now," stated the former India forward who made his International debut in 2003.
The former international also credited India's steady growth at the world-level to Hockey India's efforts in professionalizing the system. Tushar said, "To make a good team, we definitely need good planning, and I am very happy with the way Hockey India plans and executes systematically. Over the past 10-12 years they have brought in a lot of changes and have laid emphasizes on a very scientific approach to train players. They are not only looking at producing quality players, but they are also working on developing quality Coaches through the Hockey India Coaches Education Pathway."