"Must win a Commonwealth Games medal at any cost," says Indian women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal
They say you need a confident leader to help a team reach astronomical heights against all odds. Indian women's hockey team skipper Rani Rampal's personality matches that requirement in every possible way.
She exhibits the sense of bravado which is needed by the No. 10th ranked team in the world as they prepare for their toughest year on the international circuit in recent times. Commonwealth Games, World Cup and Asian Games – three mega tournaments that can make or break a rejuvenated team which is trying to make a name for themselves.
“Commonwealth Games se kisi bhi halat mein humein medal lana hai (We have to bring back a medal from the Commonwealth Games at any cost),” Rampal underlines the fact that Indian women’s team is desperate to win silverware in CWG 2018.
However, these words are not said in zest as the skipper goes on to reveal the team’s plan to tackle this challenging year.
“We will start with the Korea tour. The objective is to deliver a good performance so that we can take that confidence into Commonwealth Games,” says the 23-year-old who will lead the country against South Korea in a 5-match series from March 3 to 12.
Managing excessive workload and identifying the strengths of the team
The Harendra Singh-coached side has also given importance to the fact that girls would be playing a lot of match until the end of August which might take a toll on them.
“Our main goal is to remain fit throughout the year as we have back to back tournaments. We have to be careful that we don’t suffer any long-term injuries because there’s no time for recovery,” Rampal voices her concern.
However, like a well-oiled machinery, the 2017-Asia Cup champions have done their homework on the aspect of keeping the players fit and healthy.
“We have a well-equipped scientific trainer who takes care of our workload. He spends a lot of time behind strengthening our body parts so that there’s minimum risk of injury. After every training session, utmost attention is given to the recovery sessions so that each player is able to take the field and play smoothly,” says Rampal.
Apart from ironing out the weaknesses, it’s very important to know the strengths of a team, because that’s what helps a squad earn victories in major tournaments. In this case, the leader knows her side’s plus points and hopes to make that count.
“Our team is right up there when it comes to fitness and we are very good in penalty corner conversions. So our motive is to earn as many PCs as possible so that we can improve our goal-scoring chances,” Rampal explains the tactics of her team.
Plans for CWG 2018, World Cup and Asian Games
The Indian women’s hockey team had won a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and followed it up with another silver in 2006. But then, in the next two editions, fifth-placed finishes were all that the team could muster. Rampal has a clear ploy in mind for Gold Coast 2018.
“We should be ready and prepared even before our first match in CWG 2018. The aim is to make our way out of the group stage and win the semis.
“Uske baad toh final mein kuch bhi ho sakta hai (After that anything can happen in the final). Whoever plays well on that day will win gold,” Rampal says.
The women’s team made it to the 2016 Rio Olympics through the back door. The fifth-place finish in the women’s Hockey World League Semifinals, coupled with England and Germany's progression to the final of 2015 European Championships, helped the girls secure qualifications for the Games after a gap of 36 years. Rampal is intent on taking the direct route on this occasion.
“Our aim is to directly qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning gold at the upcoming Asian Games. This would also give us extra time to prepare for the Olympics,” she says.
The lady from Haryana was part of the Indian team which won bronze in the 2013 Junior World Cup. Will more medals be added to her trophy cabinet now that she in charge of the senior team?
“It’s just once in four years that you get a chance to win a medal in big events and this is the time for us to showcase the results of the preparations which has gone on behind the scenes in the last few years. We are determined to win medals in all three tournaments,” the striker signs off with a well-timed answer.