Attributing India's fine performance in the three-nation invitational hockey tournament in Australia to "team-work", Indian chief coach Rajinder Singh said his goal would be to carry forward the good work to next year's Olympics in Athens.
"Our showing in Australia is no doubt a big morale booster. But our primary aim is the Athens Olympics and we have still a long way to go," Rajinder said as the Indian team returned from Australia to a rousing reception in the Capital.
"We have to be very focussed to achieve our target and need to prepare really hard for that," he said.
India finished runners-up to Australia in the first leg of the tournament in Perth but won the second leg in Sydney, avenging the loss against the hosts.
Rajinder said India's fine performance Down Under was possible due to the induction of several members of the junior World Cup winning team, who played admirably well along with the seniors to help India beat formidable opponents including arch-rivals Pakistan and hosts Australia.
"The juniors and seniors gelled well to form effective combinations. That helped our cause a lot in Australia as they played like a team and made our victory possible," he said.
India were unlucky to lose the Perth final as Australia scored an "opportunistic" goal in the last minute to emerge 2-1 winners.
However, a week later India settled the score with the hosts when they thrashed them 5-3 after an engrossing battle.
Declining to give credit to any one player for India's show, the chief coach said the victory was largely due to the strategies adopted by the team which paid dividend.
"It was total team-work. We worked on our strategies. We had laboured a lot preparing for the meet. Hopefully we will continue in the same vein," he said.
Rajinder said he would be holding meetings with the Indian Hockey Federation president, secretary and the selectors to prepare a team for the future since several members of the team may not continue after the Athens Olympics.
"There are some players who are at the fag end of their careers. At most they can play till the Olympics. But after that we have to look for new blood.
He also lauded the efforts of veterans Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Dhillon and Baljit Singh Saini and said the trio came up with commendable performances during the meet.
"The senior players have a tremendous impact on the team. The return of Dhillon is a great boost to the side."
Speaking on the violence-marred Indo-Pak tie in Sydney which ended in a draw, the coach said the matches between the Asian rivals always inspire the players to come up with their best.
"It is always there when we play Pakistan, be it hockey, cricket or any other game. The matches between the two teams are always exciting."
Rajinder also said their fine showing against the arch-rivals during the tour had nothing to do with the absence of some senior players in the Pakistani side.
"They got only one penalty corner against us in Perth. What could have Sohail Abbas done there? They had come to play an international tournament and they came with their best team. The absence of one or two players hardly makes any difference to any side."
Short corner specialist Abbas was one of the three senior members of the Pakistan side to be dropped for the meet on disciplinary grounds. Former captain Mohammad Nadeem and Mohammad Wasim were the other two players who were punished.
The coach said the 12-day tour also helped the side sort out some weaknesses and the players will be given a chance to hone their skills before embarking on important tours in future.
"We have improved in short corner conversion and defending which had long been the side's weakness."
IHF president K.P.S. Gill said "The performance by our boys was simply superb. They rose to the occasion and played really well to beat the Australians."
"It has been a fine showing and I hope the players will continue in the same way in future."