While this doesn't seem to be particularly encouraging, India's recent performances in Champions Trophy and Azlan Shah Cup are a testament to the fact that the boys with the stick are ready to take on the strongest of international sides and bring home an Olympic medal.

Australia has proven to be India's biggest scare, beating the side in both the aforementioned tournaments. While Champions Trophy was a close affair with things going down to shootouts, Azlan Shah Cup final was totally dominated by the Australians who beat India 4-0.

It would be better not to dwell in the past, though. The qualification for the finals shows the grit and character of the new-look team, which managed to execute plans almost with perfection, even in the absence of its most decorated players.

Key players like Sreejesh, Raghunath, Dharamvir, and Akashdeep were rested for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, while Sardar and Rupinder were given time off-the-field during the Champions Trophy. Coach Roelant Oltmans says that these decisions are inspired by the want to keep all the players fit for upcoming Rio Olympics. We think he makes sense!

Form and persistence will be required from the team if it aspires to make any consequential mark in the quadrennial event.

India hasn't qualified for the last four, in an Olympic or in a World Cup tournament since winning the 1980 Moscow Olympic gold. Let us hope that this time around we not only qualify for finals but also get a chance to welcome the team with medals around their necks.

By: Ira Shukla

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