Once a powerhouse in men's hockey at the world level, India steadily lost its stature over the years and even at the Asian Games gold medals were few and far between, but former inside forward Mervyn Fernandes hopes the national team will be able to regain its "golden" touch at the upcoming Asiad.
Like many keen followers of the men's hockey team's progress, Mervyn, too, is waiting with bated breath for the country's name to be recast in gold again at Asian Games starting on September 19.
"I am keeping my fingers crossed, but this team is capable of doing it. The crunch is deliverance. It has done well in the last few international tournaments and the big plus is there have been very few changes in the team," Mervyn
told PTI today.
India, world conquerors in the bygone days when it grabbed six successive Olympic gold medals and eight in all, has ended up second best to arch-foe Pakistan on most occasions in the past Asian Games.
Hockey is a Games discipline since 1958 at Tokyo and India clinched its first hockey gold in the continental multi-
discipline sports spectacle in 1966 at Bangkok and recaptured it 32 years later in the same Thai capital.
Since then the country's hockey fans have been waiting for yet another gold in men's hockey from three more editions of the Asian Games.
The 17th edition in Incheon, South Korea, offers India a chance not only to break the jinx but also gain a direct entry to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Mervyn, a member of the 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal winning team, feels that the biggest incentive on offer is the direct entry to the Rio Games, avoiding the pitfalls of 2008 when the country failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
"That, I feel, is a very big incentive as these Olympic qualifiers are very tough to negotiate. Nothing like winning the gold in the Asian Games and gaining a direct entry into the Olympics," said the Air India employee.
Reminded about the new format to be introduced in international hockey, at the Asiad, with the game split into four quarters of 15 minutes each, Fernandes said the team which adapts to it quickly will be a big gainer.
"Remember, when the drag-flick was introduced we took a lot of time to figure it out while the Germans and Dutch took to it fast and smashed other teams. I am sure (head coach) Terry Walsh and (high performance director) Roelant Oltmans would have worked out these things with the boys."