Despite the loss to Australia in the Champions Trophy final, the Indian hockey team has won hearts with the performance.
One admirer is former India captain Dhanraj Pillay. He heaped praise on the depleted side, and said it had matched Australia step for step.
“When I was playing, I don’t think we played such consistent hockey for the entire duration of the match. Even I could not match the performance these boys have given in recent times.
“India’s fitness levels have improved 110%. Frankly, previous teams could not match the pace of Australia. But in the Champions Trophy final, we had 79% possession and we dominated them in all quarters.
“This team can do anything in the Olympics. India has a chance of a podium finish. There is a spark in the team,” Pillay told reporters after being announced as the owner of the Blazing Bashers franchise in the Mumbai Super League, a local table tennis tournament.
Pillay hoped India could improve on the field goal conversion rate.
“We need to improve on scoring more field goals. We need to be sharp in front of the goalmouth. Whatever chances you are getting, convert them. Or you will regret later on like Dhanraj Pillay. I’ve been to four Olympics and don’t have a medal to show,” he said.
While Pillay refused to comment on the team’s prospects in Rio, he said: “The players must not take it for granted that they will reach the final. They need to take it one match at a time. Once they qualify for the quarterfinals, it will be a different ball game.”