Indian captain Manpreet Singh and chief coach Graham Reid. (TOI Picture)
KOLKATA: World Cup-winning hockey legend Ashok Kumar on Wednesday stated it might be troublesome for the Indian males’s group to maintain up the momentum that appeared ok for a long-awaited Olympic podium end had the Video games been held as scheduled this yr.
A key member of the 1975 world champion group and a bronze-medallist on the Munich Olympics can not help however ponder whether the Manpreet Singh-led group would form up as properly subsequent yr, because it did this yr after a stellar 2019.
“If the Olympics have been held this yr, we undoubtedly had some probability. We had proven enchancment and we may have gotten some good outcomes there,” Kumar, who scored the successful purpose in opposition to Pakistan within the 1975 World Cup closing, instructed PTI in an unique interview.
“Undoubtedly, there’s a break in momentum and it’ll actually make an enormous distinction. You may’t say now (that we are going to win a medal). We’ll discuss it subsequent yr seeing how they carry out within the construct as much as the Olympics.”
The truth is, Kumar feels that coach Graham Reid will even be a bit circumspect as a result of pressured break brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even (head coach) Graham Reid can have an enormous query mark happening his head now. Teaching is occurring inside closed doorways. Until you see them in actual matches, how will you assess… He is not a machine.”
India’s greatest present got here in opposition to world’s prime ranked group Belgium, beating a full energy facet 2-1 in a Pro League encounter. India additionally had a commendable 2-2 draw in opposition to the formidable Australia of their closing Pro League recreation earlier than the world got here to a standstill as a result of pandemic.
The 70-year-old additional stated the ladies’s group was additionally in nice form and would have carried out nicely had the Olympics been held this yr.
“Even our girls’s group have been within the peak of their kind and so they too had vibrant possibilities however now we by no means know. We’ll speak in regards to the Olympics solely subsequent yr,” he stated, remembering the 5-1 win over the USA within the first leg Olympic Qualifier.
The boys’s group can have a packed calendar when it resumes as it’s slated to play within the Asian Champions Trophy in November earlier than a tour to Malaysia adopted by a 4-Nation event in New Zealand early subsequent yr.
The group will then resume the Pro League in opposition to Argentina with back-to-back matches until finish of Could within the construct as much as Tokyo 2021.
India, who misplaced to Belgium Rio 2016 quarterfinals, haven’t received an Olympic medal since Moscow 1980 the place they received a gold medal.
“It relies upon how they regroup and the way they preserve the spirit excessive. They’ve to remain motivated, it is purely a person factor,” the star dribbler of yesteryears stated.
Kumar, nevertheless, believed that India have improved so much within the current previous by bolstering their defence.
“We now have a balanced squad in the intervening time. We now have plugged the outlet of leaking objectives on the final minute. Our defence is a lot better now.”
“We now have some good drag-flickers in Rupinder Pal Singh and Simarnjeet Singh. The forwards simply want to mix a bit extra and present ball anticipation.”
Kumar, who was a Mohun Bagan legend having mesmerised the Kolkata public together with his artistry within the early ’70s, remains to be enamoured by the ‘Metropolis of Pleasure’.
“I used to be so thrilled that I left my B Com exams halfway to play alongside the legends of the nation in Mohun Bagan.
“There have been greats like Shahid Noor, Inam-ur Rahman, Gurbux Singh and Vece Paes who have been taking part in for Mohun Bagan then. It is a resolution I will not remorse,” he recalled.
From 1969, Ashok Kumar performed for 3 seasons at Mohun Bagan, a golden period throughout which they received the primary division hockey league 4 occasions in a row, in addition to successful the coveted Beighton Cup twice.
“They (Mohun Bagan) have been extremely impressed by my abilities on the College video games and had despatched me a suggestion letter.
“I made my nationwide debut from Mohun Bagan and went on to characterize the nation on the Olympics. I’ll all the time cherish this award as Mohun Bagan is like my second house,” he signed off.