Bengaluru, Aug 6 : The Indian men's hockey team must treat the next one year as a countdown to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, feels former drag-flick specialist VR Raghunath.

"I think the team must take this period as a one year countdown, and forget everything that's happened in the last 6-8 months. It is time to start afresh," said Raghunath.

The former defender, who was part of some of India's finest victories including the 2014 Asian Games gold medal and FIH Champions Trophy silver medal in 2016, further said that the six-week break would have helped the players recharge.

"The six-week break was ideal for the players to return to the national camp feeling fresh. The Indian team's fitness is top class and they will continue to build on this plus point the next one year but having the right mindset in their approach and staying mentally positive will be very important," he said.

Putting things into perspective, Raghunath explained, "How the players cope mentally in this new scenario, how they approach every day mentally and once they start training and playing matches, how they will cope with the pressure and the results will matter a lot.

"Usually in the lead up to the Olympics, the last 6-8 months pass by really fast and the team must be absolutely prepared physically and mentally." Commenting about the team's defence, Raghunath said India's current backline can challenge the best teams in the world.

"They are very experienced and the current set of defenders have about 50-80 caps together. They know each other very well and I don't see them having any problems even when they are put in a tough match-situation against any top team in the world," said the Coorg-lad who continues to actively take part in domestic hockey.

He further highlighted that young dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh has matured as a player and with good support from senior compatriot Rupinder Pal Singh, India can produce lethal PC attack.

"Having two top dragflickers who can play full match is an advantage for India. Both Harmanpreet and Rupinder are equally good and they have completely different execution and qualities.

"Having various options and combinations in drag flick is always good. Plus, India has good options in Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas who can be great support when one of the two top flickers are having a rough day," opined Raghunath.

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