India Hockey Team Aspire To Fulfil Bigger Dreams After Tokyo Olympics Bronze

Under Craig Fulton's guidance, the Indian men's hockey team is aspiring for a gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

5 min read
Hindi Female

Craig Fulton is attempting to write, rather, re-write the handbook ‘India’s Path to Olympic Hockey Gold.’ Without delving too much into the past, though it sticks to us like glue over the years since the gold at 80’ Moscow or the 1964 Tokyo gold where India played ‘hockey’s dream final’, India vs Pakistan, winning 1-0, Fulton’s job will not be made easier simply for the reason that epochal changes are also happening in other top-ranked teams that constitute World Champions Germany, reigning Olympic champions Belgium, the team in form The Netherlands, and the omnipresent and powerful Australia.

Meanwhile, the ones lurking below the radar but with a bite as potent as a viper’s are Great Britain, Spain and the 2016 Olympic Champions Argentina.

India winning the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a famished hockey nation getting their first meal in more than four decades. Now, India, having once again felt the high of an Olympic podium, wants to reach the final and take a tilt at bringing back the gold, to a country that was once considered Olympic hockey’s ‘home nation’ as far as the top prize is considered.

Minting a Gold Will Take More Than Just Skills

In India’s emotive climate, when it comes to the Olympic Games, the media and the fans use the word ‘podium’ rather loosely. Retaining the medal, or, one step further, minting a gold not acquired in 43 years, requires more than skill – an unwavering resilience and determination that can take you from the trenches to firing on all cylinders.

It happened in Tokyo after being smashed 1-7 by Australia in the Pool stages. India, wounds still raw, powered into the semi-finals.

Great Britain’s Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock said, after Tokyo, that retaining the pommel horse gold was ‘10 times harder' than winning it in 2016. And, here, we are already a little jumpy about Paris keeping in mind that in India’s Pool (B), is our nemesis – Australia, Olympic Champions, World Cup runners-up Belgium, consistent but erratic New Zealand, Argentina striving for a come-back and the one team out to prove a point or win a couple, Ireland.

India’s path in the recently concluded FIH Pro League legs in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela was impressive. Yet, that stage is still some distance away where the aura of invincibility, that swagger which you see in the Aussies, the Germans and the Dutch can be part of our psyche, our mental build-up for Paris.


Selection Dilemma

India has landed in Perth for what will be a 5-Test series that kicks off the International Festival of Hockey. Even though results in the past decades may look terribly skewed in favour of the Kookaburras, it is quite a classic rivalry that starts on 6 April, with the last game on 13 April. Australia is fifth in the FIH rankings, with India a spot above.

For Fulton, it’s also about understanding the players, a process that kicked in when he came in as coach and through the Asian Champions Trophy and the Asian Games has continued in trying to pin-point those players who can stand up in Paris, especially when the chips are down and also cut down the opposition so that they stay down.

Picking up the top twelve players will not be an issue with the management. It is the remaining four where opinions will be divided among selectors, the coach, and the mental trainer Paddy Upton. Who can stand up to the rigours of an Olympic Games? Those moments in a game where a team is down by a few goals or up by a solitary goal with a minute to play for – all of that requires a certain mindset.

At the Olympics, Everything Is About Mindsets

Duncan Scott won four medals in the pool in Tokyo – one gold and three silver. During the media interactions in Tokyo with the British press and even later, Scott, who had become the first British athlete to win four Olympic medals at a single Games, seemed dissatisfied, slightly disgruntled.

It was only later that one could understand Scott’s feelings for whom those three silvers were akin to losing three gold. In an interview to The Guardian, he said: “Looking back, after every race I was thinking: ‘I’m falling short of each thing I want to achieve.’” In fact, in the 4x200m freestyle relay where he picked up the gold as part of the team, he seemed disappointed when explaining, “we missed the world record by 0.03 seconds.”

At the Olympics, everything is about mindsets. That is where the selection of the team will be key. Maybe, sacrifice a certain percentage of skill for determination, staying power, resoluteness and of course an Olympic level tenacity that at times becomes the difference between victory and defeat, a spot in the semis or a final.

Paris Might Be the Most Competitive Olympics Ever for Hockey

Fulton is not way off the mark when he says, “We are really focusing on ourselves right now. We will get the opportunity in Australia to get tested. We will evaluate ourselves, assess our squad, and that's the priority right now.”

Passion and aggressiveness can spill into uncontrollable chaos. Big teams and medal-winning squads know when to rein it in. They feel the temperature on the pitch; the captain and seniors, including the coach, know when to calm a galloping pulse. At any Olympic Games, the squad selection becomes critical.

Long, since Los Angeles 1984, Pakistan’s last Olympic gold, only Australia, Germany and Netherlands have largely been on the podium. The exceptions after that are Great Britain with the gold in 2988, Argentina 2016 and Belgium 2020. Paris might just be the most competitive Games ever for hockey. The top six to eight teams, all barring crucial fourth-quarter errors, have a chance of ending up with glory.

We Are Working on Our Attacking: Hardik Singh

FIH Player of the Year, Hardik Singh plays on the word ‘mindset.’ In fact, since he made his debut, it has been his mantra on how to create a ‘team’ out of ‘individuals.’ Like any team game, individual performances do stand out. At times, exemplary individual skill could be the difference. Yet, when you want to hold things together in times of stress, it’s the team, the thread that binds them together that works.

For a team considered defensive in its approach, protect your back first, the Indian midfielder believes the team needs a little bit of work on their attacking.

We are working on our attacking. Many times, it happens that we score goals after conceding goals, but now we have to change our mindset. We have to attack first, give our 100%, and score goals at any chance. We don't need to be desperate; we have to be calm and attack first.
Hardik Singh

Paris Dream Begins in Perth

For the sceptics, the team needs to do a lot more. Any coach would vouch for that. At times after the Asian Games, in the Pro League, there were moments where they did look frozen, caught between the glare of the headlamps. Especially in that game against Australia where they went down 0-2, climbed back to lead 4-2 and then lost 6-4.

Fragile, volatile, attacking regression, all that happens with most teams and if it pleases you, it does happen with the top four. In the match, you need to recognise those moments. The preparation for that starts on April 6th against Australia, then Pro League stints in Europe before Fulton understands the core of the team, plus-minus a couple of players. If the universe, the cosmos has to weave its magic around Harmanpreet Singh’s team, it needs to start in Perth. Hopefully, with a glorious finish in Paris.


  • Australia vs India (1st Test) – 6 April

  • Australia vs India (2nd Test) – 7 April

  • Australia vs India (3rd Test) – 10 April

  • Australia vs India (4th Test) – 11 April

  • Australia vs India (5th Test) – 13 April

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