This piece was published in Stick2hockey.com
The Indian men’s hockey team’s eye-catching performance at the 2014 FIH Champions Trophy has triggered a great deal of hope that the country is steadily taking the ‘significant strides’ towards reaching the pinnacle of world hockey. A second consecutive fourth-place finish in the premier Champions Trophy (they had finished fourth in the 2012 edition in Melbourne) has enhanced the expectations of the hockey fans with the 2016 Rio Olympics not far away (less than two years to go for the marquee event).
The way the Sardar Singh-led side rose to the occasion against higher ranked sides like Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Germany in front of their home fans should surely give hockey the desired leg-up in the country. Indian forward Dharamvir Singh has no doubts that hockey is indeed heading in the right direction. “There is little doubt that this team is capable of bigger things. We showed in the Champions Trophy that we can upset the applecart of the best in the business. We now have the self-belief to beat the world’s top sides; we defeated the Netherlands after 28 years and even beat world number four Belgium. Remember, we had defeated world champions Australia in a four Test series in Australia. All these results can’t be a flash in the pan – I believe if this same bunch of players remain together we are capable of winning a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics,” he says in an exclusive interview.
The 24-year-old striker dwells on the Rio Olympics, appearing carried away by the talk about the big-ticket event. “We have beaten all top sides this year and best teams are watching us closely. If we can reach the semifinals of the Rio Olympics, it will be a big thing for Indian hockey,” he gushes.
The tall, strapping forward cherishes the match against Belgium, where he scored the fourth goal and bagged the Man of the Match award. “The Belgium game was good for me as I scored our fourth goal in the 49th minute. Overall I was really chuffed with my performance in that game as I won the Man of the Match award as well. I started off in the first game against Germany on a sedate note, but gradually my intensity went up and was pleased to have contributed towards the team’s success.”
The Ropar-born youngster, who has played 96 internationals so far, attributes India’s superb run in 2014 to Terry Walsh. “He is a fantastic coach. His efforts really helped the team to become a strong force. The team really shaped up well under him, which was carried on by Roelant Oltmans in the Champions Trophy in admirable fashion,” he observes.
A product of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy, Dharamvir, who made his senior international debut during the seven-match Test series against Canada in 2009, is considered one of the top of injectors of penalty corners. So what’s his take on that? “It feels good if people say I’m good at penalty corner injection. It needs focused skills as speed and accuracy are crucial as drag-flickers need to find the right rhythm to unleash.”
Injuries have ensured Dharmavir hasn’t quite been able to cement his spot – a knee injury put him out of competitive action for a long period – his comeback at the 2012 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament was his first tournament after the 2010 Asiad.
The Jaypee Punjab Warriors player feels that hockey has plenty of incentive for youngsters in the country. “There was a time when people used to say that hockey featured players belonging to poor families, but not anymore. Youngsters know there is money in hockey and are looking to make a career out of it which is good for Indian hockey,” he fires a parting shot.