I am happy and proud that our hockey team has won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, our first medal in 41 years. Having won an Olympic medal at Moscow in 1980, I know pretty well the kind of hard work and sacrifice required to bag an Olympic medal. I am sure the boys will be enjoying every moment of their unique feat. It was a well-deserved win.
Even before the start of the Tokyo Games, I was confident that our boys will have a podium finish. What made me sound confident was the fact that unlike in the past, our coach Graham Reid had preferred young legs for the Tokyo campaign.
It has worked wonders. My observation proved to be right and I am happy for the boys. Reid's method of coaching and style of play helped our boys bag the bronze. It is not easy to play a match for the bronze medal after losing the semifinal. Mentally and physically, the players would have been drained.
During the bronze medal match, it was evident how our boys had regained composure and played with lot of determination to beat Germany 5-4.
Reid, as an Australian, knows a lot about speed and strength. So he prepared the team to play an aggressive brand of hockey all the time. Moreover, the training that the team had for nearly nine months worked well.
The reason for our win against Germany was courage, attitude and willingness to fight back. Our PC conversion (60 percent) was good, there were excellent field goals and good defending at penalty corners was also there. Overall, it was a splendid performance.
Many players from this young team could form the nucleus for our country in the coming years. Midfielders like Nilakanta Sharma, Vivek Sagar and Hardik Singh and forwards like Gurjant Singh and Simranjeet Singh were the find of the Olympics.
On the whole, PR Sreejesh’s performance was very good. He was involved in some marvellous saves. I think this is his best performance to date. After this good show, Reid and all his support staff should continue for the betterment of Indian hockey. This victory should prompt all the schools and colleges to make their students start playing hockey.
(V Baskaran was captain of the Indian hockey team that won gold in 1980 Olympics)