Everything remains the same for Sjoerd Marijne and Rani Rampal
It has been an interesting time if you are a fan of Indian hockey. 2018 has been dubbed as the year of reckoning for the sport in India and both the men's and women's teams have started off the year in a mixed fashion.
The Men In Blue and the Indian Eves finished fourth in the recently concluded Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. While the men's team received mixed reviews on their performance, the women's team produced some good performances on their way to the fourth position.
But the top officials at Hockey India felt that a change was needed and decided to swap the coaches as Harendra Singh took over as the men's team coach and Sjoerd Marijne returned to the helm of the Indian Eves.
Even as the Dutch tactician admitted his regret in not finishing his job with the Men in Blue, he was quick to reveal that he is a person looking towards the future with the women's team and helping them achieve their goals this year.
The captain, Rani Rampal, also expressed her happiness in having Marijne back on board as she felt that since he already knows how the system, it's easier for him to work with the team rather than having a new coach to start all over again.
Marijne's second stint started with an encouraging silver medal finish at the Asian Champions Trophy in Korea. With the important phase coming up, starting with the tour of Spain before the World Cup in London and the Asian Games in Jakarta, the coach and the captain feels one of the major reasons for the recent success is the fact that nothing has changed when it comes to the system in which they are functioning in.
Everythings remains the same
One of the major reasons Marijne cited for the recent success of the women's team was the fact that the groundwork and tactics laid down by him were still followed by Harendra Singh and it also made it easy for him to come back to the role.
He also pointed out how the tour of Netherlands last year helped the team gain momentum going into the latter stages of 2017.
"It started with the team when he had the tour. There we changed things as we were not happy with the earlier results. From that moment, things started changing and that was the biggest turnaround. " - he said.
Marijne felt the steam gained by the team in the tour, helped them to have a strong finish to 2017 and start 2018 on the right track. The argument was strongly supported by the Rani as she felt the confidence the team gained by securing a win and a draw against Belgium Jr. Men's Team helped the do well.
"At Holland, we tried to change our strategy and applied some new tactics which suited the team well." - she said.
Marijne also stressed the importance of the work done by Wayne Lombard, to improve the fitness of the players, another point backed by his captain.
"In terms of fitness, we feel that we are as good as the top teams in the world, if not better. We have also learned on how to control the game and when to apply pressure on our opponents." - she said.
On facing England in their own backyard at the World Cup
One of the brightest spots in the CWG campaign of the omen's team was their win over the Olympic champions England in the group stages. After trailing in the early moments of the game, the Indian Eves had a strong hold on the game and were able to stage a remarkable comeback to win the match 2-1.
Even though the team came up short in their Bronze medal match against the same opponents, Rani feels the pressure will be on England when they square off once again in what will be India's opening match at the World Cup this year.
"The opening match of every tournament is crucial for any team, but even more for the hosts. In the case of England, the pressure will be on them. Firstly, because they are Olympic champions, secondly, they are playing in front of their home crowd and third is the fact that we have already beaten them at CWG." - She said.
She also added that the win they achieved was done to the fact was not down to luck and was because the team put in the extra yard to clinch the win and would definitely love a repeat of the same.
Marijne also believed that the team can repeat the feat they achieved against the World Cup hosts at CWG as they now realise how to get the job done against a champion side like England.
"If you beat a team like them once, it means it is possible and from the ten times you play against a side like England, if you win once, why not do it again. That's how we feel now and at the moment, our focus is solely on the first match against England."
Special World Cup for Rani
In the 2010 World Cup, a 15-year-old Rani burst onto the scene and caught the eye of everyone with a splendid display. She ended the tournament being India's top scorer as well.
Fast forward to eight years and the Indian forward has to play a new role as a senior player in the squad and help her teammates who are making their first appearance at the big stage.
"For me, this World Cup is special. In my first outing in 2010, it was a big achievement for me to be the top scorer. My seniors at the time used to motivate me to play well and now it has become my responsibility as captain and as a senior player to do the same with the young talent in the squad."
She also added that her advice would be to tell the players to enjoy the moment and play without any pressure that accompanies with being on the grand stage. Rani believes that the balance in the squad will surely help them to do great at the World Cup.
While there is still a long way to go, the coach and captain are on the same page when it comes to setting goals and achieving them -- a strong performance in London followed by a Gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
And with momentum truly on their side, the chances of completing this coup seems likely to happen.
Can the Indian Women's Hockey Team put up a strong performance at the 2018 World Cup? Sound off in the comments section below!