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India have managed to better their previous best finish at the Champions Trophy in 1982. On Friday, they will compete against Australia for a shot at gold. Even if they fail to win it, they will finish with a silver, better than the bronze in 1982.
In Australia they face a formidable opponent, one which has a great track record against India and have beaten them in the same tournament. One can expect a good final if a spirited Indian team shows up on the pitch.
But, no doubt it is an heart-warming performance by India reaching the final of the six-nation tournament, but it is not a result one should be reading much into in the build-up to Rio Olympics.
Experimental squads by every nation, including India, don’t show the real competitiveness of the tournament.
Netherlands and New Zealand, both ranked higher that India, are not participating and that makes it less competitive. India, with a win, a loss and two losses, could be proud that the squad could finish at the second position in the points table.
Before the London Olympics, India had a great qualifying tournament, beating every team of the tournament comfortably. India had to pay the price of peaking early at the Games as they went winless and finished last.
Same can be said about the current situation now. Peaking before the Rio Games should not get into the head of the players and the result of Champions Trophy, no matter how good, should not affect the mindset before Rio.
The real test for India could have been against any opponent other that Australia. A result against top ranked team is foreseen albeit an inspiring performance by India. A rematch against Belgium or Great Britain, against which India managed a loss and a win respectively, could have given a fairer idea of their preparations and pressure handling.
In the final, India have nothing to lose. A free mindset and playing without pressure could help them pull off a better performance. With Sardar Singh taking a break, it is good to see the Indian team rise.
But the depth of this rise, which has been as heart-warming as it can be, will be witnessed only after India’s performance at Rio.