India needs to play fearless hockey even while displaying the typical Asian skills to be in with a chance of winning a medal in the Tokyo Olympics, N. Mukesh Kumar, who holds the Games record of scoring the fastest goal — 32 seconds against Australia in the 2000 Sydney edition — said.
“India is in a tough group. The main objective should be to avoid early setbacks or else it would have a demoralising effect,” he said in a chat with The Hindu on Monday. “Olympics is a different proposition altogether in terms of pressure and expectations.”
Mukesh singled out goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh as the player to watch out for because of his experience, class and confidence. “He is such an inspirational figure in the team,” he added.
“Most of the teams are short of match-practice. It will be interesting to see how the players come up with the required endurance and match-fitness levels. Generally, the preparations include playing in a three-nation event or even Test matches. So, the onus will be on the seniors to raise the bar,” said Mukesh, who featured in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Games.
“The coaches, too, have a demanding task of relying a lot on video analysis and their success in translating the boardroom strategies into on-field execution will play a big role in any team’s chances.”
Mukesh hoped that the tradition of Olympics throwing up unexpected heroes will continue and India too can have a share of this.
“The emphasis of this Indian team seems to be to send players with the specific direction of going flat out in 10 minutes in any position.
“If we are good in this and combine our traditional mastery in skills too, India should be a formidable force,” Mukesh said.