While India has had limited top-level success at Hockey in recent years, the team remains feared by international heavyweights and the sport remains our national game. When India had dominated the field hockey by winning gold medals in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 editions of the Olympic Games, Dhyan Chand was arguably the pioneer behind the success of this sport.
From 1928 to the 1960 edition of the Olympic Games, the Indian men's team remained unbeaten in the Olympics, winning six gold medals in a row. Such was their dominance in the sport that they had a 30–0 winning streak during this time. India have also emerged triumphant at the 1975 edition of the World Cup which was held in Malaysia. This remains their only World Cup win to date. India's hockey team is the most successful team ever in the Olympics, having won eight gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.
However, post the gold medal win in the 1980 Olympics, the Indian hockey team have never tasted success at the Olympic Games or the World Cup. They have failed to manage a podium finish since then.
In the FIH Hockey World League, the Indian team managed a third-place finish in two of their three appearances from 2012. The bronze medal was clinched in 2014-15 and 2016-17 respectively. In the Champions Trophy, India did make it to the finals on two occasions in 2016 and 2018 but were on the losing side on both occasions. In the Commonwealth Games, they clinched silver medals in 2010 and 2014 but could not win a medal in the 2018 edition and had to be satisfied with a fourth-place finish.
In the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea, India clinched gold after a 16-year long wait under Sardar Singh's captaincy. India emerged triumphant at the 2017 Asia Cup by beating China in the final. They had last won the tournament in 2007. The Indian team also won two back-to-back editions of the Asia Champions Trophy in 2016 and 2018 respectively. They were also the runners-up in the 2016 edition of the South Asian Games.
India who have won the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup five times are yet to clinch gold since 2010. In fact, they had won the tournament on two straight occasions in 2009 and 2010 respectively. After struggling throughout the decade, India did manage to reach the summit clash in 2019 but could only finish as the second-best side.
Teams like Australia, China, Malaysia, and arch-rivals Pakistan have been India's key rivals in the past few years. Even though India have not succeeded in finishing on top of the podium at the world stage, one should underestimate them at their own peril as they are the dark horses or sleeping giants in those big tournaments. Another interesting thing about the Indian hockey team was that even though they could not qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, they managed a quarterfinal finish four years later in Rio.
The Indian team will be seen in action in the upcoming FIH Pro League which will be played between 11 January and 28 June 2020. They will begin their campaign against former world champions the Netherlands at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. The Manpreet Singh-led side will then be competing in the Tokyo Olympics later this year. Meanwhile, India will also be hosting the FIH Hockey World Cup in 2023. This will be the second straight time that the event will be held in the country after having previously hosted in 2018.
(Image Courtesy: PTI)