Commonwealth Games 2018: "Proud of the way the girls fought" says Harendra Singh on India's campaign
A review of India's campaign in the Commonwealth Games with inputs from coach Harendra SIngh.
Can a 6-0 scoreline indicate anything other than a sound thrashing?
All those who witnessed India's bronze medal encounter against England will vouch for the fact that it certainly can, and that a scoreline need not necessarily be indicative of what transpired on the pitch.
"Sometimes, the scoreline does not define the actual game. We missed chances and paid the price and England capitalized on whatever chances they had in hand."
Coach Harendra Singh is disappointed but not dejected. For a man whose career has see-sawed between the depths of despair and the heights of glory, this is just another chapter in a long series of trials and tribulations.
"I am proud of these girls and the way they fought throughout the entire tournament." said the accomplished guide and mentor.
Almost there, but not quite
The Indians started off looking better than they ever had in the tournament, and England were under a fair bit of pressure early on.
Rani Rampal's team displayed near-perfect passing skills to execute some great moves, with the English defence being kept busy.
Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch had an exceptionally good match and thwarted the Indian strikers time and again as Singh told us. "Hinch played a superb game and denied India chances."
India created some good opportunities and very nearly scored on at least three occasions. It was truly a case of almost there, but not quite for the Indians.
"We missed four sitters," said the coach, and if the Indians had converted even one of them before conceding the third goal, the story of the match could have been quite different.
India were very much in the hunt for three quarters, holding the English forwards at bay and skilfully advancing into the English circle when they found space.
For a good 45 minutes, it was a close encounter and one does need to give credit to the girls for playing some outstanding hockey.
After England scored their second goal, the Indians had no option but to alter their structure and go all out to reduce the margin with around fifteen minutes left on the clock.
This left several gaps in midfield and in the deep defence and the England players swooped in to make the most of the open spaces.
Sophie Bray and Alex Danson were quick to capitalise, with the Indian players unsure of whether to press ahead or step back.
The third goal demoralised the Indians completely and from then on they looked helpless and vulnerable.
Commonwealth Games just the beginning of a vital season
India started their campaign looking disorganized and a little distraught against Wales. Since then, the Indian girls have improved with every outing and more international exposure could be the key to the team's success.
The Commonwealth Games are just the beginning of a vital hockey season ahead.
So, what lies ahead for Rani and her team?
"Time to sit in the drawing room and chalk out a comprehensive training program to rectify the small mistakes for which we paid the price." said coach Singh.
The Women's World Cup is next up which will begin on July 21 in London. Soon after, are the Asian Games, in Indonesia which ensures an Olympic ticket to Tokyo for the winners.
"We gained valuable experience for the World Cup and Asian Games", said coach Singh.
Invaluable indeed, as India defeated Olympic champions and World No. 2 England in their pool game and lost by a slender 0-1 margin to the mighty Australians in the semifinals.
What is of immense significance, is that India were not cowed down or awestruck by their higher-ranked opponents and had the confidence and self-belief that they can challenge the best.
If the technical flaws can be ironed out by the Indian coaching staff, the Golden Girls will no doubt give their fans big reasons to smile in London and Jakarta.
The disappointment at Gold Coast may just be the first step of an upward learning curve.