The Indian Men’s Hockey Team began the year 2020 on a fantastic note by registering victories over each of the top three international teams – Belgium, Australia and Netherlands in the FIH Hockey Pro League. The side’s stupendous performances in their debut FIH Hockey Pro League campaign helped them achieve their best-ever ranking of fourth in the FIH World Rankings as well. The balance of the national side was looking better with each match and the team was heading in the right direction as far as the preparations for the Olympics were concerned.
However, the Indian team had to reboot its plans and preparations for the Olympics, once the quadrennial event was postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a test of mental toughness for the players as the national side was away from the pitch from March to August. The Indian team players put their complete focus on maintaining their fitness, while they stayed at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus in Bengaluru. The Indian Men’s Hockey Team Captain Manpreet Singh expressed that he is very proud of the way his teammates have stayed positive during the entire year.
“It’s been amazing to see the resolve shown by each and every member of the Indian team. All the senior players took the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment throughout the year, especially during the time we were away from the pitch. Our Scientific Advisor Robin Arkell kept giving us fitness schedules regularly and we kept carrying them out in our rooms from March to August,” Manpreet said in a statement.
The 28-year-old added that Hockey India has been a huge support during a tumultuous period for one and all this year. “Hockey India had ensured that we were kept busy with many activities when we were away from the pitch. They have been huge support this year. They ensured that we could safely stay at the SAI campus during most part of this year and also organised a break for us in June brilliantly. I would like to thank them for being there for us and providing everything needed for us to stay safe and also prepare for the Olympics next year,” he said.
After having had detailed discussions with all stakeholders including the Chief Coaches and core probables of both the Men’s and Women’s teams and after giving the utmost priority to the safety and well-being of all the athletes, the Indian Hockey Teams returned to the pitch for sports activities on August 19, 2020.
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team players started building their game from scratch slowly and steadily in August. By increasing intensity with each sports activities session, the players kept getting better and after four months of dutifully following all practice regimes devised by the coaching staff, the team had reached close to the fitness levels that they showcased in international matches in February this year, before leaving for a break in December.
“We have worked really hard in the last few months and it has shown in the way we have gotten better every day. We are approaching the level at which we usually operate in international matches. I am personally very thrilled to have done very well in the fitness tests -strength, weight, speed and muscle components before heading home for a break,” said Indian Men’s Hockey Team Defender Surender Kumar.
The Indian Men’s Hockey Chief Coach Graham Reid expressed that he is extremely happy with the way the team has responded in the last four months.
“It’s been very heartening to see the way the players have put in the hard yards in the last four months and reach a level close to which the team showcased in international matches early on in 2020. It was brilliant to see our training sessions output data approach our February figures (when the team played FIH Hockey Pro League in Bhubaneswar) before the team left for a break in December,” said Reid.