Captain Chetri promises free-flowing hockey from India

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London, Jul 26: India captain Bharat Chetri promised to play free-flowing hockey when the eight-time champions step on to the blue turf at the Riverbank arena here against The Netherlands in their opening match of the London Olympics on July 30. The Netherlands, which are former champions, will be tough opponents to start a tournament, but Chetri said the Dutch prefer free-flowing hockey, something which suits India.

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"We've had some close contests with the Netherlands. We enjoy playing them as they play free-flowing style," said Chetri, adding that India had not got an opportunity to play against the Dutch for the past one-and-half years.

"We've not played against the Dutch for a long time, but that's not going to be a big factor," said Chetri, who has got an opportunity to play in the Olympics more than a decade after he first represented India. "I first played international hockey 12 years ago and now I've got this honour of leading India in my first Olympic Games," he added. Chetri was part of the Indian squad which had failed to make it to the Beijing Olympics by losing the qualifier to Great Britain in Santiago, Chile.

Chetri is leading a team with just two players who have previous experience of the Olympics. Seasoned defender Ignace Tirkey and ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh are the only ones who were part of the Indian squad at the 2004 Athens Games.

"Playing for the first time in the Olympics is going to spur the players into producing their best. We have some very good players, you just watch us play," said Chetri. "We're happy that Indian hockey fans have expectations of a good show from us. I promise that we'll strive our best to produce a good show," he added. India has failed to make the semi-finals at the Olympics since winning their last gold medal in the boycott-hit 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Chetri said life in the Olympic Village was a unique experience, and all players were enjoying the time as they prepare for the competition to begin. "So many illustrious athletes from different sports disciplines are checking into the village and the atmosphere is wonderful," said the Indian goalkeeper. "We're all soaking it in even as we keep our focus on the upcoming matches." India has been drawn in Pool B of the men's hockey competition which features reigning Olympic champions Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and Belgium.

PTI

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