New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) Former hockey captain Zafar Iqbal is optimistic that the current Indian hockey men’s team has the capability to overcome the strong Australian challenge in the upcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, starting April 4.
Speaking on the sidelines of the RangDeTiranga event organised by Sony Pictures and Delhi Sports Journalist Association (DSJA) to wish the Indian contingent for the CWG, the hockey great said: “Undoubtedly, Australia is one of the best sides, which plays top level hockey. However, the Indian side has also dished out some great performance in the last few years and have also beaten the Australians on some occasions.”
“I am fully confident that our team will clear the Australian hurdle this time,” he added.
Significantly, India had lost the finals to Australia in the 2010 Delhi CWG and the 2014 Glasgow CWG and had to settle for the silver.
The 62-year-old said that after being thrashed in the 2010 CWG, the Indian side improved their show in Glasgow, however losing the summit clash.
“There will be a tough fight in the Commonwealth Games as it features hockey heavyweights like Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and Pakistan,” Zafar said.
“Our teams are well prepared for the Gold Coast games. Both the men and women teams have played a number of matches in the recent past and have gained plenty of experience,” he added.
Zafar also expected the Indian women’s team to continue their northward journey in Australia.
“I think the women side will make the most as they had won gold in the 2002 Manchester Games and settled with silver in the 2006 Melbourne CWG,” he said.
Commenting on the surprise ommision of former skipper Sardar Singh, who led India to a fifth-place finish in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy, from the CWG squad, Zafar said: “There might be a reason behind axing him. May be Sardar has been dropped because of coordination issues. But, I feel the team picked for the prestigious event is of world-class which will surely perform their best.”
Zafar also credited the Hockey India League (HIL) for handing confidence to the Indian players as it provides them a platform to play the game with some top foreign players.
India will open their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan in the CWG.