This year in the FIH Pro Hockey League, India brought up the best teams in the world. I am happy that India defeated the Netherlands by a margin of three goals. If they lost one match to Belgium, they defeated them in the other. More importantly, the strong team of Australia was held to a 2-2 draw by India. From this, one can guess that the Indian hockey team is moving in the right direction. Apart from this, some encouraging results from other sports also raised expectations.
Let`s start with hockey. I have believed from the beginning that the forward line should avoid losing opportunities and the defense line should be relaxed. I am glad that, this time, both of these things were paid attention. It was a morale boosting performance by the team, but there also lies the fact that it all happened before March. Whether the team has maintained its rhythm in this way for so many months is an important question. Are the defence and attack of the team still the same? Now, coaches and team management will have to show that the team has the same firepower as before.
File photo of Amit Panghal (in blue).Bajrang Punia.File photo of players from India (blue) and Belgium (White) in action during Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 match, in Bhubaneswar. (ANI Photo)
In other sports, I have high hopes for badminton, wrestling, boxing and shooting. We can also get medals in these games. Frankly speaking, after hockey, I focus the most on these sports. Let`s talk of boxing. India finished the World Cup Boxing at Cologne at the second spot overall after claiming three gold, two silver and four bronze medals. Amit Panghal, Asian Games gold medallist, claimed the only gold among men. Simranjeet Kaur (60 kg) and Manisha Moun (57 kg) won gold in the women’s category. Indian pugilists ended this 67-day Europe training and competition successfully. I am very happy to say that nine Indian boxers have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this time. Led by stalwarts like Mary Kom and Vikas Krishan, the Indian team now also comprises medal favourites like World No. 1 Amit Panghal and some young Turks.
In wrestling, I have big hopes from Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat in the next Olympics. Both have won gold at Rome Ranking Series and also gotten medals in the world championship at Astana last year. Ravi Kumar, who won gold in the Asian Championship, is also a big hope for the Olympics. Sunil Kumar, Pinki, Sarita and Divya Kakran brought the country laurels in the Asian Championship and Anshu got silver at the World Cup recently.
In badminton, India did well in the Asia Cup Championship by winning bronze. Kidambi Srikanth went down fighting in the Denmark Open QF. I have big hopes from K. Srikanth and P.V. Sindhu in the near future.
In tennis, Sania Mirza and Nadia Kichenok won the Hobart International Tournament. This was a grand comeback to professional tennis for Sania. Apart from this, Sumit Nagal reached the second round of the US Open this year. He became the first Indian after Somdev Devvarman (2013 US Open) to win a match in the main draw of the grand slam.
In athletics, I was very impressed with the performance of Arvind Sawant, who broke a national record in the Airtel Half Marathon. Last year, during the world championship in Doha, he broke a record in heats as well as in the final.
In football, Mumbai City and ATK Mohun Bagan impressed with their performance in the Indian Super League. But in the FIFA WC qualifiers, India’s three matches out of five were drawn and India lost the remaining two.
I am also eagerly waiting for our shooters, who were previously the country’s pride, to show their game. We have 15 shooters who earned Olympic quota places for the country. The country’s shooting federation has also announced a core group of 34 shooters for nine events in the Tokyo Olympics. Let us hope for a medal in the future.
The writer is a member of the World Cup winning team of 1975 and scored a winning goal against Pakistan in the finals.