The aura may be long gone and recent performances may have been inconsistent but Indian hockey's former technical adviser Ric Charlesworth, who had a controversial stint with the team, still expects his former wards to qualify for London Olympics during the qualifiers starting in New Delhi on Saturday.
"India still has some very exciting players and can play some fabulous hockey but perhaps they are not consistent enough and they haven't planned well enough for a long time," the Australian told PTI in an e-mail interview.
"I do think it can be turned around. If you mean their aura was their dominance then obviously that no longer exists. When I first played to beat India was exceptional and rare...now it is expected," he added.
Charlesworth had a controversy-ridden tenure with the Indian hockey team and walked out of the job after a major stand-off with the administrators within 10 months of joining in 2008.
Confident: Ric Charlesworth (left). Pic/Getty Images
The legendary former player is currently in charge of the Australian team, which won the 2009 and 2010 Champions Trophy and the 2010 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games gold medal that same year under his guidance.
Talking about India's chances at the qualifiers, Charlesworth said the hosts should have it easy against oppositions who are at best capable of causing nothing more than an upset or two.
"I expect India to qualify as they have easily the easiest pathway...Canada, Poland and France can cause an upset but against India at home they do not have enough weapons," Charlesworth said.
Charlesworth was technical adviser of the team when India lost to Great Britain at Santiago and failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a shameful low for the eight-time Olympic champions.
Charlesworth feels if India plays the same opposition again there, it would still be a 50-50 proposition. "India still has a balance between youth and experience... (though) experience can be over rated," he said.
"If India had to play GB as in 2008 it would be 50/50 as I believed it was back then...the difference this time is the venue and the opposition," he said.
India will play Canada, France, Poland, Italy and Singapore in the Olympic qualifiers at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Playing in front of home fans, Charlesworth feels, can be a double-edged sword as players will feel the pressure of expectations. "...the crowd can help or hinder...on balance, being at home is usually a plus.
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