Bharat Chettri: India can win a medal in Rio

"India won the silver medal in the Champions Trophy recently, despite having rested key players like Sardar Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh. When we are at full-strength, we will be even stronger. We can even win a medal - it is not an unrealistic target," says former India skipper Bharat Chettri.

Former India skipper Bharat Chettri was hopeful of the Indians doing well at Rio.   -  PTI

With Canara Bank and Central Excise locked in battle during the D. S. Murthy and V. Karunakaran Memorial hockey tournament final held here, one name on the team-sheets stood out. Standing between the sticks for Canara Bank was Bharat Chettri - the Indian team captain at the 2012 London Olympics.

A sub-par show at London - India finished last - hastened the end of Chettri's distinguished 12-year international career. Along with a host of other senior players, Chettri was dropped soon after the mega-event. He has not worn national colours since.

The current Indian team is now just over a month away from competing in the 2016 Rio Games, and Chettri expects this side to put on a good show. “India won the silver medal in the Champions Trophy recently, despite having rested key players like Sardar Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh. When we are at full-strength, we will be even stronger. Going by recent form, we will - at the very minimum - reach the quarterfinals. We can even win a medal - it is not an unrealistic target,” he says.

Chettri states that he does not hold a grudge over his exclusion from the national team four years ago. “My international career lasted 12 years. I got my chances. I was 30 when I played at London, so it was time to groom the younger guys. The selectors were focused on building a good squad for Rio. This is why seniors like Sandeep Singh, Shivendra Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandker and I were dropped. The selectors took the right decision,” he says.

The Kamimlong-born goalkeeper was replaced by P. R. Sreejesh, who has now established himself as a vital cog in the wheel. Chettri is all praise for his successor. “Sreejesh has been absolutely fantastic. He plays a crucial role - he prevents the opposition from finding the net, which means that even a solitary goal scored by us will be enough to earn a win. This is what has brought India so much success in recent times.”

As for his personal ambitions, a pragmatic Chettri admits that his playing days are nearing an end. “I want to become a goalkeeping coach. I have a good amount of knowledge on the subject which I would like to share,” he says.