Bengaluru, [India], Apr. 1 : While the Indian Senior Men's team Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans has emphasized that the year 2017 is crucial with the Asia Cup and Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar scheduled for this year, ace India forward SV Sunil feels with good results in these tournaments, it is a realistic goal for his side to make it to the top three position in the world.
"We are currently ranked No.6 in the world. It's a good improvement from being placed 12th or 13th about four years ago. I feel if we keep up our performances and show good results starting right from the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where teams like Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia will take part, we have a very good chance of improving our ranking and the aim is definitely to reach world ranking of top 3," stated Sunil.
The Coorg lad who was recently named the Asian Player of the Year 2016 by the Asian Hockey Federation said he was pleasantly surprised with the award, "I didn't expect it when coach called out Harmanpreet (Asian Promising Player of the Year 2016) and me from the pitch in the middle of the training session to inform us about the award.
At first I thought we were being punished for something," Sunil revealed candidly. Sunil leads India's attack with Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah and with youngsters like Mandeep Singh, Gurjant Singh, Affan Yousuf, Lalit Upadhyay waiting to make a permanent place in the Senior squad, the competition within the team is tough, feels Sunil.
"There are nine players who play the forward position in the core probables right now. Some of the youngsters from the junior squad have very good performance to show and even Affan Yousuf had a good outing last year as well as in the 2017 Coal India Hockey India League.
I feel each one of us have to fight for our position and make sure we have creditable performances from tournament to tournament to ensure our spot in the team," said Sunil who has shouldered the responsibility as the team's Vice Captain in the past.
With a new system put in place and a rotation policy followed by the Dutch Coaches, Sunil feels youngsters today have greater opportunities to prove their worth.
"I think back when I made the transition from junior to senior player, there were very few chances for a junior to be part of the playing 11.
They would not substitute as often as they do now. So the first set of players who went in would virtually play the entire 60-70 minutes. But now with the speed of the game increasing, almost every player gets a few minutes on the pitch and one must make use of it," he concluded.