Indian men strong contenders for Oly hockey podium finish: Khandker

The Indian men's hockey team is a strong contender for a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympic Games, former India forward Tushar Khandker said on Monday.

"Definitely, I am excited to watch the Olympics. I feel the way the Indian men's team is doing right now, they are strong contenders for the podium," said the 36-year-old player who was part of the 2012 London Olympics team that finished 12th.

Khandekar said that experience had taught players important lessons on what "small mistakes can do" in big-ticket events such as the Olympics.

"We have learnt from each of the Olympic Games. While we didn't qualify in 2008, we finished 12th in London and eighth in 2016 in Rio. We learnt from the mistakes we made in 2012. Players, who were part of the London Olympics, like Sreejesh, Manpreet, Sunil, Danish Mujtaba and Raghunath, who also got to play in Rio had told themselves the team won't make the same mistakes they made in London," he said.

"Likewise, I am sure players who were part of the Rio Olympics will caution the team about the errors they need to avoid in Tokyo."

Khandker, who was the men's team assistant coach between 2014 and 2016, feels the current squad has raised the level in every aspect.

"I feel the current team has raised the level and they have developed a great sense of self-belief that they can do well against top teams. After the slump in 2008-09, it has taken us 10-11 years to climb to this level," said the player who was part of the team that bagged bronze at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

Khandekar credited India's growth at the world level to professionalism the system.

"To make a good team, we need good planning. Over the past 10-12 years, a lot of emphasis has been on scientific approach. Hockey India are not only looking at producing quality players, they are also working on developing quality coaches," he said.    - IANS