The Indian Women's hockey team defeated China in a shootout in the final of the Women's Asia Cup 2017 on Sunday and clinched their second title in the history of the prestigious continental tournament. As a result of their euphoric victory, the Indian eves qualified directly for the Women's Hockey World Cup in 2018 to be held in England. Following their consistent run in the competition, they also broke into the top ten in the FIH rankings.
The Indian team remained unbeaten right throughout the tournament and capped off a memorable outing for Indian Hockey with the men's team also being crowned Asian champions last month.
Let us take a look at five of the best performers from the Indian team in the 2017 Women's Asia cup held in Kakamigahara in Japan.
#5 Deep Grace Ekka
Deep Grace Ekka was brilliant at the back line in defence. She thwarted various opponent attacks with consummate ease. Her supreme ball control adequately backed up all midfielders even as her sublime passing helped the team break through to mount significant counter attacks.
Grace scored three goals in the tournament including a brace against Kazhakstan in the quarter-final. The 23-year old defender from Orissa has made a name for herself in Indian hockey circles and certainly deserves all the accolades for putting up sprightly performances right throughout the tournament.
#4 Savita Punia
The Indian vice captain Savita Punia was the best goalkeeper on display in the entire tournament. She conceded just five goals in all and made life incredibly difficult for the opponent strikers. Her excellent reflexes and efficient technique helped her make tremendous saves. She capped off a brilliant tournament by reserving her best for the final.
She denied the Chinese strikers on quite a few occasions and helped her team thwart the opposition's goal-scoring opportunities in regulation time. Savita went on to make the all-important save in the shootout to propel India to the title. She coordinated well with her back-line and kept out anything in her zone comfortably. Her skill and determination make her an invaluable asset to the Indian team.
#3 Navneet Kaur
Navneet Kaur was one of the finds of the tournament for India. The 21-year old made swift runs down the line to create goal-scoring opportunities for her country. Her excellent penetration skills into the opposition defence were also highly encouraging. The talented player scored four goals in the championship, twice against both Singapore and Kazhakstan.
Navneet performed admirably in the knockout matches and was instrumental in formulating chances in the opposition half with her timely run-ins and neat through balls. In tandem with captain Rani Rampal, she was extremely difficult to contain. The duo played with admirable flair and skill to keep their opponents at bay. Even though she can still look to improve on her finishing skills, the midfielder from Haryana is definitely a terrific prospect.
#2 Gurjit Kaur
While she scored six other goals in the tournament, the crucial brace which helped India surge ahead in the vital semi-final clash against Japan was a vindication of Gurjit Kaur's dependability in big matches. The 22-year old defender was devastating with her drag flicks and penalty corner conversions.
The youngster from Punjab was in clinical form as she stopped rival attacks effortlessly and converted from the spot with a high success rate. Her capacity to remain calm and composed under pressure was a major highlight of India's much-improved defence. Needless to say, she has set high standards with her recent performances and the 2018 World Cup will be a litmus test for her remarkable prowess.
#1 Navjot Kaur
One of the most promising strikers in the Indian lineup, Navjot Kaur was always at the forefront of the team's attacking in-roads. Her tactical nous was a major reason behind India's generation of numerous goal-scoring chances right throughout the event. Her tally in the tournament was five goals and none of them came from penalty-corners.
The 22 year old helped India extend their lead in the semi-final by converting a vital chance in the 9th minute against Japan. She also scored the decisive goal for India in the final by tapping one from close range. Navjot, who hails from Haryana, is a natural athlete and possesses a plethora of skills in her bag. Her ability to create goal-scoring opportunities augurs well for the Indian team's immediate future.