Fully aware about the Herculan task that awaits the Indian men's hockey team in the upcoming World Cup, former captain Pargat Singh on Thursday said a semifinal finish in the mega-event would be a big achievement for the past masters of the game.
"Going by the team's performance since last year till date, if we reach the semifinals that will be a big achievement. It will be a credit to the team," Pargat said.
The hockey World Cup will be played at The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15. Eight-time Olympic champions India will open their campaign against Belgium on Saturday.
But before the start of the tournament, India were dealt two huge blows in the form of strikers Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah, who were ruled out due to injuries.
"We are already eighth in the world ranking. And adding to this injuries (to Ramandeep and Nikkin) have come at this hour. We will need to put up a really good show to compete with the top teams," Pargat said.
Pargat pointed out that Indian hockey lacks a "structured system".
He also felt that there was over-reliance on players from Punjab, a state known for producing the finest hockey talents in India.
"We are not promoting talent at the grassroot level from other areas to the level that is expected," Pargat said.
Pargat also said that though Indians are passionate about hockey, there is plenty of work needed to be done to bring the sport into limelight.
"For four years, I have been trying to get a 4-nation or a 6-nation Cup to be conducted in Punjab,
which we have to get alloted from Hockey India. But so far there has been no success. We have constructed five stadia (in Punjab). We have set the stage, we are contributing maximum players, but we have to get events so that our players compete with top teams," he said.
"We may say hockey is our national game but the fact remains is that we need to get events on a regular basis for our players to compete," he added.
Meanwhile, former India striker Gagan Ajit Singh also said that the injuries to Ramandeep and Nikkin couldn't have come at a worse time for India as it would disturb the team's balance in the showpiece event.
"It is a big blow to miss out on the two key players," said Gagan, who is now an officer in Punjab police.
He said India's first match against Belgium will be crucial as the Belgians have emerged as a strong hockey playing nation in the last 2-3 years.
Gagan said India should take one match at a time.
"If we can make it to first five, then it is very good.
In the 2006 World Cup, we ened at the 12th position," he said.
"We should take it step by step. In the recent past we have not won any major tournament or performed that good. We should take it step by step."