'No team takes India lightly anymore'

'No team takes India lightly anymore'

Raghunath credits Incheon gold for team's rising confidence

'No team takes India lightly anymore'

Ace drag-flicker VR Raghunath said the self belief which they had gained after winning the gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games was responsible for the Indian men’s hockey team’s constant rise at the world stage in the recent years.

“Ever since the Asian Games Gold in 2014, the team has started to believe in itself again. We never wanted to come down from that stage and only wanted to climb up. We had a ranking of 12-13 before 2014 but recently we were placed No 6 and currently we are ranked No 7 in the world,” Raghunath said in the lead up to the Champions Trophy in London.

“No opponent takes us lightly anymore and they talk about us as a team that does well in knockouts. I believe we have a bright chance and we are moving in the right direction for the upcoming tournaments,” added the 27-year-old defender.

Raghunath said one can’t get complacent about their role. “Nobody can take their place in the Indian team for granted, you have to constantly prove yourself. Anyone who performs well will be in the squad and personally for me, I would like to test myself against big teams like Australia, Germany and Netherlands in the upcoming tournaments,” he said.

“The priority will be to convert maximum penalty corners so that my team is in a comfortable spot in the first two quarters,” he added.

Commenting on the ongoing preparations for Rio Olympics at SAI centre here, Raghunath said: “I feel we are best prepared than ever before for a big tournament, be it physically, mentally or even psychologically. We are not only focus on improving individually but also encourage each other and tell ourselves that we need to perform as a unit to leave a mark at the Olympics this time.”