BENGALURU: The storyline for Indian men’s hockey at the Commonwealth Games did not go as they would have liked. Since the sport was introduced at the quadrennial event in 1998, Australia won gold on all six occasions. India came close twice – in 2010 and 2014 – before being topped by the team from Down Under.
This edition of the event starting in Birmingham on Friday was not on the priority list until the Asian Games were postponed for a year. With a full squad and an eye on improving their performance in the competition, Manpreet Singh and Co landed in Birmingham earlier this week.
Having lost against England 1-2 in qualifying for the bronze medal and came back empty-handed in 2018, India are keen to redeem themselves.
India’s history at the Commonwealth Games
On the lessons learned from the Golden Coast debacle four years ago, skipper Manpreet said: “At the last CWG things didn’t go our way. We underestimated a few teams like Wales in the group stage. In this edition we want to win a medal. We are not under – will estimate any team. In every game, we will focus on our game plan and do our best.”
India, ranked fifth in the world, are in Pool B alongside Ghana, England, Canada and Wales.
Manpreet, who will play his historic 300th match for India when the team face Ghana in their tournament opener on Sunday, said the team had faced the weight of expectations as CWG will be the team’s first major outing after bronze- winning performance at the Tokyo Olympics Last year.
Head Coach Graham Reid broke down the pressure factor and explained, “I don’t think anyone’s expectations of us are higher than what we have of ourselves. We have high expectations of what we want from ourselves as as a team and individually and that keeps the pressure on us in the right direction.”
On the outside pressure, the Australian added: “When it comes to hockey, people talk about medals every time India go to any event. There is not much we can do against the outside pressure.
In Photos – India’s 2018 CWG medalists are all set for Birmingham glory
The 22nd Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham on Thursday, bringing together around 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories to compete in 19 sports over 11 days. (Getty Images)
If India go beyond the league stage, serious challenges await them, but none are bigger than Australia.
In the 128 games the two teams have played, Australia have won 85 while India have won 22 games with 21 games ending in a draw.
Aside from skills, one of the key elements to overtaking Australia, according to Reid, will be India’s mindset. “One thing we would never do is take Australia lightly. Everyone puts Australia on a pedestal and rightly so because they have won a lot over the years. But to be able to beat them , we have to change our mindset and understand that we are also good and can compete at the highest level,” Reid stressed.