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New Delhi, July 22, 2020
It has been 40 years since India won Hockey Gold in the Olympics. Vasudevan Baskaran has the distinction of leading the side to the top of the podium at theMoscow Olympics in 1980.
Four decades later, the veteran left-winger feels that at Tokyo next year India has a good chance to win a medal in hockey but for that the players will have to give their best and play as a unit for the team and country.
The Olympic gold medallist feels that the present bunch of players shortlisted for the national side have in them the potential to be among the medal winners but "to achieve this kind of result, every single player needs to give his minimum 80 per cent if not 100."
“Every team at the Olympics comes to win and they will do everything they can to stop you from giving your 100 per cent. Podium finishes cannot happen with just 4-5 players giving their 80 per cent and the rest giving their 60 per cent,” Baskaran was quoted as saying by Hockey India.
The former captain was of the view that players and team as a whole should not make the Pro Hockey League as a bench mark for success in the Olympics “While playing the in Hockey Pro League against top teams it will set good momentum ahead of the of the Olympic Games but my advice is that the team should not read too much into the results. Each player will be playing about 200 minutes of play on average with back-to-back matches
“Every single player needs to be consistent, for the Olympics will be a very different stage compared to the Hockey Pro League and the Chief Coach Graham Reid has pointed this out several times."
He also expressed optimism about the success of the Women's Team in the Olympics saying, “Since I have watched this Women's Team closely too, I feel they have great potential to do well. They have shown good results against top teams in these past few years and they can surely be the dark horse in the tournament.
“I feel for both Men and Women's Team, execution is the key. They have the talent; they need to execute to perfection. If they do, they can surely finish on the podium."
Reminiscing about the team that he led to glory, Baskaran noted that he captained a very young side.
“Barring Bir Bahadur Chhetri and myself, no one else in that team had played at the Olympics before. In fact, up until then, many had not even taken a flight much like the Indian cricket team from 1970. I agree we were raw and there was no follow-up after the 1978 Asian Games where we had a solid team."
Analysing the composition of the team, he said “However, when I look back, I am filled with pride about my team. We had picked the best 16 players out of the 24-25 who were selected for the camp in Bangalore.
“ We had a formidable starting 11 with Davinder Singh as our penalty corner specialist, Sylvanus Dung Dung and Rajinder Singh joined him at the back. Right-half was Gurmail Singh, centre-half Ravinder Pal Singh who was just 19 years old from Uttar Pradesh Sports Hostel, left-half was myself, left-wing was Zafar Iqbal, Mohd Shahid centre-forward, M K Kaushik and Amarjit Singh Rana the other two forwards.
"Allen Schofield from Bangalore, Mervyn Fernandese, Surinder Singh Sodhi, MM Somaya and Charanjit Kumar were brilliant in their roles. Balkrishan Singh was our Coach and Dayanand from Kerala was our Manager," he recalled.
"What brings me pride is that 7-8 players from this squad went on to play for India for another 8-10 years. They became the stars of Indian Hockey.
"I remember when the team for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games was announced, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw who was heading the All India Council of Sports paid us a visit in Bangalore. His confidence-oozing talk remained with me all through the Olympic Games. He had said, 'You look tough and you have a fire in your belly. Pass this on to your teammates. They are young and can play with speed. Play well and you will finish on the podium."
Going down the memory lane, Baskaran recalled that Indian campaign in Moscow didn't begin too well.
"After an 18-0 win against Tanzania, we had drawn 2-2 against Poland. We could have won that match had we not missed last-minute chances and I had missed a penalty stroke. In the next match, we drew 2-2 again but this was against Spain, the European Champions that year.
"This I believe was the turning point of our campaign. Spain was a fantastic team. They had a great forward line and holding them actually made me feel this team had it in them to win.
"The Bombay lads were the game changers in the team. They had the right experience from the club culture in Mumbai, playing for Tatas and the Mahindras almost full-time made them very sharp. They were smart on the field, clever and tactical. Zafar from Delhi, I was playing for Railways, Allen from Bangalore and Davinder from Punjab Police, we had developed a strong connection as a team.
"Going into the final, the boys were very motivated. We took a 2-0 lead at half-time and went one up in the early second half. Though Spain bounced back, we beat them 4-3 to win the gold medal," he added.