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Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics

"It was the inconsistency that cost us the medal in London and Rio. They (men's team) need to raise their consistency with every game," says Vasudevan Baskaran, captain of the 1980 Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, in an exclusive interview with Asianet Newsable.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh
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Chennai, First Published Jul 23, 2021, 10:00 AM IST
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Will India's 41-year hockey medal drought at the Olympics end in Tokyo? That's the question doing the rounds as the men's hockey team gears up for their first challenge against New Zealand on July 24.

India's hockey team has been the most successful team ever in the Olympics, having won eight Gold medals at the Games. However, since 1980, India has not won a single medal in the sport.

Leading the gold medal-winning men's squad of 1980 was Vasudevan Baskaran. The former skipper spoke exclusively to Asianet Newsable.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

Do you see the 41-year wait for the hockey Olympic medal coming to an end in Tokyo?

If I recall, in the 2012 London Olympics (where the side failed to win a single match), the team was as good as the present team under coach Michael Nobbs. If one observed carefully, India had earned the maximum penalty corners but could convert just one into a goal.

Now, if we look at the 2016 Rio Olympics team, it was even better than the present team. However, the group kept conceding goals in the closing stages, besides receiving some yellow cards.

Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learnt in these editions. Maybe, Graham Reid (current coach) has studied the boys for eight to nine months in Bengaluru during the COVID. He has taken the team outside India and has performed well. However, when it comes to the Olympics, it is a different game plan.

Also, I believe Manpreet (current men's captain) and his men have tied up loose ends. The skipper plays aggressive hockey, which would be highly beneficial for the side. Yet, my advice would be for the side to remain consistent in every game. It was the inconsistency that cost us in London and Rio. They need to raise their consistency with every game. It is difficult to give 100% in every game for the players, but they should give their 80% at least.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

What is India's best opportunity at the Games?

Going by the draw, we have New Zealand and Australia back-to-back. India can win the first game. However, New Zealand, too, would be playing the game with equal importance, as any opening game for any country would be of utmost importance. 

Also, the teams playing against India tend to give in the extra effort. Even when I used to play or was the coach, even the smallest country like Canada used to put in that extra effort against India.

Also, we have three penalty corner specialists with us (Manpreet, Rupinder Pal Singh and Amit Rohidas). But, the competition would be equal for all. All the teams have qualified based on their merits. While all the sides are highly trained, India is the best trained in the past nine months. However, if India fails to finish on the podium, I would be seriously disappointed.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

If you compare India's Olympic or World Cup performance with other competitive tournaments, India has fared better. Why does India stumble in major competitions? Is it pressure or tactical error?

All the other tournaments do not compare with the Olympics or World Cup. The teams the sides field is relatively different to that of the Olympics or World Cup. Also, it is not about pressure; it is consistency. If you see other teams like Belgium and Argentina, they are consistent. And, that's what these sides are taught even at the club level.

No one is selected based on past performance, but how consistent they are and how qualitative they are. Even India has quality but has lacked consistency.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

Is Manpreet the right player to lead the Indian hockey team in Tokyo?

It was a choice that was made a year back. They had made two vice-captains in the side; I am not sure why. Manpreet has been leading for the past eight-nine months. Maybe, he has been motivated for the role off the field. However, the captaincy is usually given to the person who is vocal and communicates well with the players and coaches. I believe he might be doing it well, and the management must be happy with him.

Also, what I personally believe for a reason behind two vice-captains is that once one of them is out on a yellow card, the other can chip in for the role. I think the decision was taken after some extensive technical thinking. So, it's fair enough and looks better that way.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

How would the prevailing pandemic affect the mindset of the players and their preparations?

You have to be disciplined. It is all about discipline. The Japanese countries are disciplined. There are positive cases creeping up even at the Olympic Village. I have no clue how the Indian contingent is staying at the Village. I hope the IOA official with the group handles the situation well and stays with them at all times.

One thing, which I like for sure, is that they go directly to the ground, train and come back. I am not sure if they are allowed to roam inside the Village or meet others. But, I have heard reports that the officials at the Village are not being over-strict about being monitored, and all are happy.

Vasudevan Baskaran Exclusive: Would be disappointed if hockey team doesn't get podium finish at Tokyo Olympics-ayh

Was it a wise call to host the Olympics amidst the pandemic?

It would be disastrous (if the Games get called off due to COVID). Many are saying not to have Olympics next time onwards. If things go haywire this time, a lot of blame-game will come into play. Also, the host nation does not have the power to cancel/postpone it, as it solely lies with the IOC since 2013. A few games are already underway. So, let us hope and pray everything goes smooth. Also, without spectators, there is less concern, and the organisers would pull it off sleekly. Let's hope for the best.

NOTE: Asianet News humbly requests everyone to wear masks, sanitise, maintain social distancing and get vaccinated as soon as eligible. Together we can and will break the chain #ANCares #IndiaFightsCorona

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