2023 Men's FIH World Cup | Dilip Tirkey hints at reviving the Hockey Indian League by year end
Dilip Tirkey, Hockey India president, stated that India may win a World Cup medal this time around after a 48-year absence, but home team must use penalty corners to do it. India hasn't received a medal since taking home the gold in 1975 tournament, but Tirkey believes the hosts can win this time.
"We have fielded the Indian team to win a medal this time, we would want India to be in the medal tally. They are currently playing really well," Tirkey told PTI in an interview.
"But modern hockey has changed a lot. Penalty corners have become very important. When the penalty corner conversion clicks, most of the time the team wins. We have very good dragflickers and I hope they click in the tournament and win a medal for India.
"(Captain) Harmanpreet Singh has been doing very well for the country as a dragflicker though he was not at his best against Spain. So, we are hoping India does well in penalty corners," said Tirkey, the most-capped Indian player (412 matches).
When asked if India could defeat teams like the reigning world champions Belgium and Australia, he responded, "The squad battled extremely well against Australia in the (five-match) series, they had competed very well.
"Belgium is also one of the best sides in the world. But India is now in a position to fight against any team in the world on a particular day."
The national federation is attempting to restart the Hockey India League (HIL) before the end of this year, according to three-time Olympian Tirkey.
"Restarting HIL is on the main agenda of Hockey. We are trying to restart it by the end of this year, we are going to find an agency to hold the league on a long-term sustainable basis and also the franchises," he said.
He added that the World Cups in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela will serve as the barometer for future hosts of the prestigious competition.
"When Kalinga stadium hosted the 2018 World Cup final, I thought that was the best stadium. But when I came here and saw myself and after speaking to coaches and players, it (Birsa Munda stadium) is simply magnificent. I think there is no better stadium (than this) in the world," Tirkey said.
"Of course, if a better stadium than this comes up, that will be good for hockey. With this world's largest stadium hosting the World Cup along with the Kalinga Stadium, no doubt this World Cup will set the benchmark for future editions."
Tirkey, who was born in the hamlet of Saunamara in Odisha's Sundargarh district, said that following the World Cup, the Birsa Munda stadium might host national team training camps in addition to local championships and Pro League games in March.
"There will be Pro League matches here in March, there will be domestic championships and Asian Games and Olympics preparation for the national teams.
"The Indian women's team has qualified for the Pro League (after winning the FIH Nation's Cup) and we can have exposure tournaments here," he said.
When asked how much the game has changed in the nation since his playing days, Tirkey recalled having to fly to Delhi and Kolkata to play on artificial turf.
"It was in 1989-90, I would go to Kolkata and then to Delhi to play on astroturf. Now, only in Odisha there are 35 astroturf surfaces. All 17 blocks of Sundergarh will have astroturf surfaces. So, lot of things have changed. I thank the Odisha government for this," he said.
"Even my village of birth now has synthetic sand turf. Earlier, we did not even have a proper hockey ground in the village. Now small kids in our village can learn hockey through proper coaching. So much has changed now." he signed off.