India might have failed to break their Commonwealth Games title jinx for the second consecutive time but captain Sardar Singh has a lot of positives to take from the event and said the silver medal was a "well- deserved" achievement for the past masters of the game.
Sardar said the young side can be "proud of their achievement" in the just-concluded Glasgow Games despite losing 0-4 to world champions Australia in the final. (Also read: After CWG silver, Indian hockey players target Asian Games gold)
"It was disappointment to miss out on the gold time but we are satisfied with what we have achieved. The boys can be proud of their achievement," Sardar told PTI in an interview after arriving from Glasgow.
"The silver medal was well-deserved because we lost against a side which is the best in the world and are currently well ahead of us.
"Even though we couldn't match them in the final as we expected but we gave them a tough fight in the group stage. We lost 2-4 in the group stage and that speaks volumes about our improvement," the ace midfielder said. (Related: We are mentally stronger after CWG silver: Sreejesh)
Even though the two teams were class apart, it was an ideal opportunity for the eight-time Olympic champions India to avenge their 0-8 thrashing at the hands of mighty Australia in the 2010 edition of the Games in New Delhi.
But it was not to be as Australia produced a clinical performance and scored two goals in each half to secure their fifth consecutive Commonwealth Games title since the introduction of hockey in the quadrennial event in 1998.
But irrespective of the final result, Sardar feels they grew as a team during the Glasgow Games and exuded confidence of sealing a direct berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics by winning the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
"We grew as a team during the tournament which was important. We more or less achieved our goal that we set before leaving for Glasgow. We wanted to beat Australia once during the course of the tournament but we failed," he said.
"We have definitely improved as a team which was visible in our performance but we need some more time to come at par with top teams like Australia.
"Our's is a young team and all the boys have performed exceptionally well in the Commonwealth Games. I think in the next one-and-half, 2 years we will be in a position to compete with teams like Australia, Germany and Netherlands," he said.
"The Commonwealth Games gave us good preparation ahead of the Asian Games. We are now confident of winning the gold medal in the Asian Games and qualify directly for the Rio Olympics."
Sardar said India will be a "force to reckon with" in 2016 Olympics.
"The way our training is going and the way we are improving, I think we can be a serious contender at Rio Olympics," he said.
Even though the skipper was not satisfied with his showing in the Glasgow Games, he had words of appreciation for some of his team-mates.
"I had a mixed bag from the tournament. Being the captain, I am not pleased with my overall performance. But it was a very good tournament for some players like young Nikkin Thimmaiah, Akashdeep Singh, seniors like Gurbaj Singh, Gurvinder Singh Chandi," he said.
"Unlike the World Cup, our penalty corner conversion rate was also very good here and the credit goes to Rupinder Pal Singh and V R Raghunath," Sardar said.
The skipper said they have a lot of work to do before the Asian Games to be held from September 19 to October 4.
"There are definitely grey areas where we need to work upon. We need to more consistent. We need to do away with our habit of giving away soft balls," Sardar signed off.