Hockey icon Dhanraj Pillay hails young team's fitness in build-up to Rio Games
Experience is a valuable asset for any sportsperson. Having braced the Olympics stage four times in his glittering career, Dhanraj Pillay listed certain dos and don'ts for the Indian hockey team that is aiming for its first medal since 1980 at the Rio Olympics.
But first he hailed the team's fitness levels after their 0-0 regulation time result against Australia in the recent FIH Champions Trophy final in England. India went down to Australia 1-3 in the penalty shootout to settle for a silver medal — a first in 36 years.
Consistency is key
"Winning and losing is part of the game, but they (India) gave a tough fight (to the Australians in the final). I don't think we have played that consistently for 70 minutes (now 60 minutes) against Australia in the past, although we have beaten them in their own
This Indian team's India's fitness levels have increased a lot. I believe they are 110 percent fit. Frankly, Indians don't keep pace with the Australians, but in the Champions Trophy Australia were nowhere compared to India in terms on fitness. We had 70 per cent of ball position in the last quarter of the final."
Members of the Indian hockey team take a selfie with their Champions Trophy runners-up medals at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London recently. Pic/Getty Images
The former skipper has now urged the team to continue their fine form without taking any unnecessary risks. "With only one month left, I request players not to fool around with their body too much. Be careful about your injuries and eat the right food at the right time. Don't take medicines which will may harm you.
No one knows, who will be called for a (dope) test. I was asked to give a test in all the Olympics," warned Pillay during an interaction on the sidelines of the launch of the Mumbai Super League table tennis tournament at the National Sports Club of India in Worli yesterday. Pillay is the co-owner of Blazing Bashers, one of the 10 franchisees in the tournament.
India last won a medal at the Olympics in 1980 Moscow Games where V Baskaran & Co beat Spain 4-3 in the final to clinch gold. And Pillay has high hopes of Sardar Singh & Co clinching a medal at Rio.
"Indian hockey is gradually getting back on track with their performances in the last six months. They finished runners-up at the Sultan Azlan Shah in Malaysia (in April) and now this Champions Trophy silver medal," he added.
Though he refrained from predicting any particular finish for the Indian hockey team at Rio, the former star striker said the real challenge will begin after the quarter-finals. "I cannot say what it will be but you need to take it match by match. The real challenge starts after the quarter-finals.
There is a chance for India to finish on the podium. We need to be very sharp in scoring field goals. Every opportunity that comes along must be converted 100 per cent. Don't regret later, like how Dhanraj Pillay is regretting. Despite playing four Olympics, I regret not being able to win even one medal for India."