Bengaluru, Aug 4: Once upon a time India were a force to reckon in world hockey. They were the undisputed best in the world and no other nation came close to their might.
India have produced some of the finest hockey players in the history of the game including 'The Wizard' Major Dhyan Chand who is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. They have also won 8 goald medals at the Olympics games which is the highest in history. [Indian hockey teams announced]
Gone are those days now and India are now a mid ranked side in the world. Four years back the national struggled to qualify for London Olympics.
But now the picture is changing as the Indian national team seems confident of regaining the past glory as they moving up the ranking slowly.
Speaking about India's chances of winning a medal and their performance, captain Sreejesh Parattu said: "I think the mental make-up of the team has changed tremendously. We have started to believe in ourselves that we have the capability to beat the top teams in the world.
"For several players in the team, it's their first Olympic Games and naturally they are quite nervous but we have soaked in the mood ever since we checked into the Olympic village and each one of us are upbeat and motivated."
Sreejesh is hopeful that they would bring back a medal which would inspire millions of Indians to take up the stick.
He added: If we win a medal, it will mean bringing back the glory days of hockey in India.
"A good result here at the Olympic Games, I am sure, will ensure the younger generations will pick up the sticks."
The Indian men's team is placed in Group B at the Rio Olympics alongside giants like Germany and Netherlands.
The Indian women's hockey team too scripted history this time as they qualified for the games for the second time in history. The last time they made it to the grand stage was 36 years ago in 1980.
The golden girls are looking forward to put up a stellar performance for the nation. Speaking about the women's side, national team defender Sushila Pukhrambam said: "Since this will be the first time in 36 years that a women's team is participating from India, the mood and excitement is incredible back home.
"Most of us come from modest backgrounds and hockey in many ways has provided us with a new lease of life. The fact that people take notice of us, come take selfies with us and that we are in the news many times brings a lot of pride to our families and friends.
"Our qualification will do a world of good for women's hockey in India. Our efforts here in Rio will motivate thousands of young girls in small villages across India to take up the sport. We have shown that one can make a career out of hockey in India."