Field hockey, a sport which India has such a rich history and tradition of. A sport which has given the country as many as 11 Olympic medals, including 8 golds (1928 – 1980) has reignited its love affair on the Olympic stage with India.
The last time India had won a hockey medal at the Olympics was way back in 1980, when the country won its last gold. Now, a 41 year jinx has finally been broken, thanks to an edge of your seat thriller of a bronze medal match, which saw India beat Germany 5-4.
With this, the Indian contingent have registered their 5th medal at the Tokyo Olympics (Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Borgohain, PV Sindhu, Ravi Dahiya, Indian men’s hockey team) and overall the 12th Olympic medal won in men’s field hockey by India at the Olympics.
Here’s everything you need to know about the current Indian men’s hockey team, which will stand on the podium in Tokyo to collect a historic bronze medal soon:
Indian Men’s Hockey team (current)
* Bronze in Tokyo Olympics
* Bronze in 2018 Jakarta Asian Games
* Silver in 2018 Breda Champions Trophy
* Gold in 2018 Muscat Asian Champions Trophy
* Gold in 2017 Dhaka Asia Cup
* Bronze in 2016-17 Bhubaneswar World League
* Silver in 2016 London Champions Trophy
* Silver in 2016 Guwahati South Asian Games
* Bronze in 2014-15 Raipur World League
* Gold in 2014 Incheon Asian Games
* Silver in 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
* Silver in 2013 Ipoh Asia Cup
* Gold in 2011 Ordos City Asian Champions Trophy
India were once a force to be reckoned with in men’s hockey having won as many as eight gold medals at the Olympic Games. In fact, the last time the Games were held in Japan, in 1964, India won the gold medal. But after the gold in the 1980 edition, the wait for the next Men’s hockey medal at the Olympics has been a very long one.
At Tokyo 2020, the 16-member Indian team was led by mid-fielder Manpreet Singh, who was the first Indian hockey player to be named the FIH men’s hockey player of the year – in 2019.
The Indian team has done well under Manpreet’s captaincy over the past four years, having won the Asia Cup in 2017, the Asian Champions Trophy in 2018 and the FIH Series Final in 2019. They also reached the quarterfinals in the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
These were Manpreet’s third Olympic Games and he had two deputies in defenders Birendra Lakra and Harmanpreet Singh.
Harmanpreet made his senior India debut in 2015 and in the absence of skipper Manpreet in 2019, led the Indian team to a win at the FIH Olympic Test event in Tokyo.
But the most interesting fact about this Indian squad is that out of the 16 players, as many as 10 players featured in their maiden Olympics.
These 10 players are: Amit Rohidas, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Birendra Lakra.
Birendra Lakra had missed the 2016 Rio Olympics due to a knee surgery.
The Indian players seemed to have learnt from the experience of defenders Rupinder Pal Singh and Surender Kumar and forward Mandeep Singh, who were all part of the previous Indian Olympic squad in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Krishan Bahadur Pathak missed out on an Olympic berth despite being an integral part of the team and former skipper PR Sreejesh was the lone goalkeeper in the squad. However Pathak did travel with the suad to Tokyo as the stand-by goal-keeper.
India were clubbed alongside defending champions Argentina, three-time world champions and current world no.1 Australia, New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan in Pool A. India lost only to the Aussies (1-7), but won all their remaining matches to enter the quarter-finals.
In the quarters, India beat Great Britain 3-1 to storm into the semi-finals
However in the semis, India lost to former world number one team Belgium 2-5. That result meant they entered the bronze medal match where they played Germany.
The Germans are ranked 6th in the world, one place below India (5). It was end to end hockey on Thursday morning as neither team wanted to give an inch. The match momentum and scoreline sung like a pendulum. But in the end, India managed to hold on to a slender one goal difference to win the match 5-4 and with it a historic bronze medal.
It will be a very very sweet win for the whole team, which has so many young guns. It will be especially pleasing for the likes of seniors like Manpreet, Rupinder Pal Singh and PR Sreejesh who have put in years and years of hard work into Indian hockey. The coach Graham Reid must also be congratulated for shaping this Indian team and taking them back to the Olympic podium for the first time since 1980.
A wait of 41 years has finally ended.
Full India Men’s hockey squad for Tokyo Olympics:
Goalkeeper: PR Sreejesh
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra
Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit
Forwards: Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh
Stand-bys: Krishan Pathak (goal-keeper), Varun Kumar (defender), Simranjit Singh (midfielder)
Coach: Graham Reid