Manpreet Singh, captain of India’s men’s Hockey team says that they are shaping well as a unit ahead of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and it could well culminate into India finishing in top four of the global event. Hockey will take place from July 25 to August 7 at Tokyo’s Oi Seaside Park and 12 teams will compete in the men’s category.

India, ranked sixth, have been slotted alongside heavyweights Australia and Argentina, with Japan, New Zealand and Spain being the remaining three teams in Group A. Four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, India had lost 1-3 to Belgium in the quarterfinal, with Argentina going on to win gold.

“We have seven months to prepare for the Olympics and the plan is to get better and better each day, in each session that we train. Under chief coach Graham Reid there is already a solid process in place and we just need to keep at it and I am sure the result will follow,” said skipper Manpreet.

“The team strongly believes we have a good shot at finishing Top 4 at the Tokyo Olympics and once we make the semi-final, it can be anybody’s game there onwards. Our immediate target is to do well in the FIH Hockey Pro League. We had a meeting yesterday where we gave our feedback to the chief coach and we discussed what we need to do if we intend to win against teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia who we play against in January and February.”

The year 2020 is not only significant in terms of how India perform at the Olympics, but also whether they’ll be able to replicate their Asian Champions Trophy. India won the bi-annual tournament in 2016 and 2018 and hopes will be high from them to bring home the title for a third consecutive time.

“It is definitely on our mind to defend the Asian Champions Trophy title. It will be sweet to make it a hat-trick, but we would like to take it step-by-step, tournament-by-tournament,” the Indian skipper said.

The year 2019 saw a transitional phase in India hockey with seniors such as PR Sreejesh, Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh taking a backseat and allowing youngsters to progress. Manpreet reckons that in 2019, one of his biggest priorities was to see India qualify for the Olympics and now since it’s been achieved, the team could look ahead brimming with positivity.

“I think the year 2019 was full of positives. Our single most important target was to make the Olympic qualification and, in that pursuit,, we improved collectively as a team and performed consistently. I think retaining our World Ranking (No.5) was also a morale boost,” he said.

“We saw quite a few youngsters play their first international match. It is good to have a strong pool of players who have the capabilities of handling the pressure at international level. This is an advantage especially now when we play back-to-back FIH Hockey Pro League matches.”