No talk of gold, says India's Sardar
Once kingpins of the game, India's dominance of men's hockey has waned considerably.
Their fall from grace has been well documented. And, over the years, there have been many false dawns, with teams showing initial promise before elements like infighting, indiscipline and pressure ensured there was no lift-off.
Maybe that is why current Indian captain Sardar Singh is adopting the cautious approach, as the team get set for the Asian Games here in Incheon.
The national team won a silver medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
They reached the final with players showing off flashes of individual skill that harked back to the days of old.
There was a togetherness to the side and, even though they were well beaten by world champions Australia 4-0 in the final, there is some excitement building over the Indian team.
But Sardar says it will still be some time before the former rulers of the game regain their crown.
"It will take some time for India to become the power we once were, what with the rule changes and other changes to the game, but we proved at the World Cup that we are improving against teams like Belgium and England," he told The New Paper.
"We made some silly mistakes to concede late goals, but we have been working on those shortcomings. We are also working on improving the communication between our players and we are improving," said the 28-year-old.
India finished ninth at the World Cup this year while the English came in fourth.
But the Indians turned the tables weeks later at the Commonwealth Games, finishing runners-up behind the formidable Aussies, with the English claiming the bronze.
Guided by world-renowned Australian coach Terry Walsh, India beat South Korea 3-0 at the World Cup to finish ninth.
They are now ranked second in Asia, behind the South Koreans, who will be hell bent on revenge on home soil, if the two sides do meet in the gold-medal contest.
India's last Olympic gold came at the 1980 Moscow Games.
Their last Asian Games win was in 1998 in Bangkok, and Sardar is not interested to talk about winning gold here.
"We've got a lot of younger players now with not enough international experience, but actually doing a really good job," he said.
"Now we've got really good coaches in the likes of Terry Walsh and good Indian coaches, too.
"We're training at a very high intensity, at a good level and we are generally improving."
India are in Group B, with arch-rivals Pakistan, Oman, China and Sri Lanka, whom they face in their opening game on Sunday.
"Every team are improving and looking to do well in the tournament. We just want to concentrate on our first game against Sri Lanka, and take things match by match," said Sardar.
When pressed if India could win the gold, he said: "What's important is that we follow our coach's instructions and strategies. Our main target is to do well in our group games and qualify for the semi-finals."
He does think India have an advantage here.
Hockey will adopt a new format of four 15-minute quarters instead of two halves of 35 minutes and, with Indian leagues already adopting that system, it could help their cause.
"We play under this system in the leagues in India and our players are used to it," he said.
"But again, it's really important that we stick to the plans of our coach."