Captaining a national side is always fraught with challenges and for Deepika Thakur, leading the Indian senior women’s hockey team for the first time at the recent Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand wasn’t any different.
“It’s a big responsibility to be captaining the side. It really helped that I was the vice-captain of the side for a long while now and most of us have been playing together for a long time,” says Deepika in an informal chat.
The Indian eves had finished sixth in the 2016 edition, improving on their seventh-place finish at the 2015 edition but the general impression was that the team struggled as a unit unlike last year, when they held mighty Australia to a 1-1 and even offered stiff resistance in most games despite losing them.
“I guess our performance this year was better than last year – nothing something that will make us really delighted though a lot of hard work still remains,” quips the 28-year-old Yamunanagar lass.
India lost to New Zealand 0-1 in their first game, followed by a 0-4 loss to Ireland, 1-3 loss to Japan, and a 1-2 defeat to China – the girls halted their string of losses with a 1-0 loss over Canada before going down to Ireland 3-4 in a shootout (in 5-6th place classification tie) after both teams were locked 2-2 in normal time.
“We made a lot of mistakes overall and there is room for improvement. We also did not create many penalty corner opportunities, which did not help our cause,” she observes.
Deepika has no doubts that the Indian team will slog it out in the upcoming tours of England and Australia and get ready for the Rio Olympics. “I think we are touring England and Australia though I’m not sure about the dates and both these tours will help our Olympic preparations.
Our girls have qualified for the Olympics after a hiatus of 36 years and we all would like to make it count,” she remarks. Has the Olympic qualification really changed the profile of women’s hockey in India? “I hope so. There should be more jobs for women hockey players. Railways has done a lot in terms of offering jobs to women hockey players and it is time others also come forward,” she signs off.
One hopes that the Indian senior women’s team makes the most of the upcoming overseas tours so that they can put their best foot forward in Rio.Published 16 Apr 2016, 00:07 IST