Former India men’s hockey captain Sardar Singh had an illustrious international career but has one regret of not being able to win an Olympic medal. However, the current lot, led by Manpreet Singh, Sardar reckons, can break India’s wait for that ‘elusive’ medal in Tokyo next year. Also Read - India's Olympic-Bound Shooting Team Leaves For Training-Cum-Competition Tour of Croatia

” Having played 314 international matches, I will always regret not being able to add an Olympic Medal on the wall back home,”  Sardar was quoted as saying by Hockey India. ” But watching this team grow from strength to strength in the past year and the way they played the FIH Hockey Pro League earlier this year, I have great hope that they can bag that elusive Olympic Medal. They definitely have a realistic chance in Tokyo.” Also Read - George Fernandez, Former Indian Hockey Player, Dies Due to Covid-19

The Tokyo Olympics were scheduled to be held this year but have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also Read - Shotgun World Cup: Gurjoat Singh Khangura Makes a Promising Start

Sardar says the delay gives Indian team more time to work on their weaknesses especially converting chances which he feels continues to be a grey area.

” With the Olympics being postponed, we have the time to work on our short-comings,” Sardar said. ” Converting chances continues to be one of the grey areas but I feel we have been finishing much better than we were two or three years ago. Good matches in the Pro League next year against Argentina, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and New Zealand should set the ball rolling for us and this will definitely be a good litmus test before the Olympic campaign begins.”

The next one year, he says will be critical to the team’s chances.

” The next one year will be extremely critical for this team,” Sardar said. ” They have the time to build on the new talent that is available. Some of the youngsters like Rajkumar, Dilpreet, Vivek Sagar, Gursahib have shown great promise and trying them in big-match scenarios like the Pro League was a good decision by Chief Coach Graham Reid.”

Sardar also looked back at his journey with the Indian team and picked out India’s gold medal win over Pakistan at the 2014 Asian Games as the most memorable match of his career.

“Looking back at my career that spanned over a decade, there have been some very memorable matches. Leading the Indian Team to the 2014 Asian Games Gold, the first in 16 years, will always be on top of that list not just because it was historic and beating Pakistan in a Final is always an icing on the cake, this win set off a new beginning for the Indian Men’s Hockey Team. In 2014, we were on the cusp of greater things to come and there was no looking back,”  he said.

” My journey in hockey has been rather satisfying because I was part of that era which saw a resurgence. We came a long way from finishing last at the London Olympics in 2012 to being ranked No.6 in the World when I hung up my boots in 2018. Now, the current team is poised at No.4 in the World Rankings which should definitely bring a lot of confidence to this team in the lead up to their Tokyo Olympic campaign,”  he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to be extra cautious of their individual health and Sardar advises both the men and women hockey teams to remain focused on their goal of putting their best steps at the Tokyo Olympics.

” For now, I understand these are trying times for all sports persons in India with the Covid-19 pandemic posing several challenges to the Olympic preparations but my advice to the Indian Hockey Core Probables, Men and Women, is to remain focused on their goal,” he said.

” Playing the Olympic Games for India should be the single most motivating factor for each and every athlete and they must channel their efforts to be the best they can be ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games,” he added.