Sunil: We are better prepared for Rio Games

India is clubbed along side defending champion Germany, European champion Netherlands, Pan-American Games champion Argentina, Ireland and Canada in Pool B.

Since making his debut in the senior team nine years ago, Sunil has gained the reputation of being the ‘fastest man on the turf’, a tag which chief coach Roelant Oltmans too agrees.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Star men’s hockey team striker SV Sunil feels India is better prepared this time around for the Olympics than four years ago in London and said playing Germany in the Champions Trophy will hold the team in good stead against the reigning champion at the Rio Games.

India is clubbed along side defending champion Germany, European champion Netherlands, Pan-American Games champion Argentina, Ireland and Canada in Pool B.

And Sunil, who vies to be at his best against the mighty Germans, said the Champions Trophy will provide the team much-needed knowledge about top teams, including Germany.

“They (Germany) are the best team in the world. It is my priority to do well against them in the Champions Trophy and at the Olympics. Playing them in the Champions Trophy will help us understand their game better ahead of the Olympics. We discussed Germany in our previous team meetings and we are aware of their strength and weaknesses,” said Sunil.

Talking about eight-time champion India’s preparation for the Olympics, Sunil hoped for a much-better performance from the team in Rio, unlike four years ago in London where it finished last among 12 teams.

“Last time, we paid more attention to fitness but this time, it is very different. We are paying attention to overall development as a team and the training has a lot to do with discipline and team spirit which I think has helped us on the field and in understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

“The approach we have for the Olympics this time is far more systematic and I feel we are on the right track,” the 27-year-old striker from Coorg added. Sunil was named vice-captain of the team for last month’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where India finished runners-up.

Asked Sunil about the new responsibility, he said: “I don’t feel that the role of vice-captain brings any pressure to my game. Being part of the team for so long, I have learnt to handle pressure and that helps me stick to my natural game.

“Vice-captaincy for me is all about making the youngsters in the team understand their role and motivate them to play to their potential.”

Hailing from a poor family, Sunil said he is indebted to hockey for what he is today.

“Coming from a poor family in Coorg, hockey has given me everything I need to lead a comfortable life. And when I play, I remember what the game has given me for the sacrifices I have made. I will do everything to bring glory for the country,” he said.

Since making his debut in the senior team nine years ago, Sunil has gained the reputation of being the ‘fastest man on the turf’, a tag which chief coach Roelant Oltmans too agrees.

“He (Sunil) is an attacker and brings something exceptional to the team. He understands our demands and he keeps questioning what we are doing in a positive way so that he can understand it and translate it to the younger players,” said Oltmans.

  Dugout videos