Former captain M.M.Somaya today said the Indian hockey team can spring a few surprises in the London Olympics which kick starts on Friday.
“Michael Nobbs has instilled lot of confidence in the team. The team is playing a different sort of game - tactically very alert, very fit. They have done well and I hope they carry this form to the Olympics. They are capable of surprising a few teams. They have a difficult pool but I am hopeful they will do well,” Somaya said at an event organised by Sportstar magazine here.
Eight-time champions India failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
Somaya, a member of the gold medal-winning team of the Moscow Olympics, was, however, non-committal on the team’s chances of winning a medal in London.
“My expectation is that they will do very well. I don’t know the final position but the style of hockey is good. It is aggressive and probably capitalising on the attacking game they are known for,” he said.
“The build up - whether it is training of Michael Nobbs or whether it is the practise matches they have organised in Europe beforehand, the team has been groomed well.”
Somaya felt the team could have a problem in trapping the ball on the newly introduced blue turf.
“I haven’t played on blue turf but what I have heard is it is a little more bouncy. So there can be an issue with trapping. Playing on grass and playing on astro turf is different but playing on blue or green turf there shouldn’t be much difference except maybe the bounce,” he said.
Picking out the players who could be India’s match-winners, he said: “Sardara Singh is truly one of the world’s best players. Gurbaj Singh, S.V.Sunil and Ignace Tirkey all are outstanding players. In addition there is Sandeep Singh who is the world’s best drag-flicker,” said Somaya, a veteran of Moscow, Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics.
“Gurbaj Singh is truly world class. He plays in my position (right half) and he is far better than what I was.”
Overall, he said, India had better chances than ever in the upcoming Olympics.
“We were never in a chance (earlier). (Now) There are multiple sports like wrestling, boxing, shooting. Earlier the focus used to be on hockey and now it has shifted.”