'No opponent takes us lightly anymore and they talk about us as a team that does well in knockouts'
'We not only focus on improving individually but also encourage each other and tell ourselves that we need to perform as a unit to leave a mark at the Olympics this time'
In the lead-up to the Champions Trophy next month, senior hockey player and drag flick specialist VR Raghunath believes the team is poised to peak at the right time.
"Ever since the Asian Games Gold in 2014, the team has started to believe in itself again. We never wanted to come down from that stage and only wanted to climb up. We had a ranking of 12-13 before 2014. Recently we were placed No.6 and currently we are ranked No.7 in the world. No opponent takes us lightly anymore and they talk about us as a team that does well in knockouts. I believe we have a bright chance and we are moving in the right direction for the upcoming tournaments," emphasizes the 27-year-old defender.
As one of the senior most members of the team, Raghunath feels one can't get complacent about being the most experienced player.
"Nobody can take their place in the Indian team for granted, you have to constantly prove yourself. Anyone who performs well will be in the squad, and personally for me, I would like to test myself against big teams like Australia, Germany and Netherlands in the upcoming tournaments and analyse my performance," he says while adding that his priority will be to take his team to a comfortable position in the first half at the Champions Trophy and Six Nations Tournament.
"The priority will be to convert maximum penalty corners so that my team is in a comfortable spot in the first two quarters," he added.
Commenting on the ongoing preparations for Rio Olympics at SAI centre Bengaluru, Raghunath says that the players like to remind themselves of the lost opportunities where they could have done better and push each other harder during the practice.
"I feel we are best prepared than ever before for a big tournament, be it physically, mentally or even psychologically. We not only focus on improving individually but also encourage each other and tell ourselves that we need to perform as a unit to leave a mark at the Olympics this time," he concludes.