Indian women's hockey team give us hope
The current team is a mature outfit
It’s not just alone that the Indian senior men’s hockey team is carving out an upswing in their fortunes. The country’s women’s hockey team have also been showing signs that the team is ready to match the best in the business. The fighting performance of the Indian eves at the Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand brought to the fore the swift progress the girls have made over the recent months.
The Indian women’s hockey team is full of ‘young legs’ and a big positive about this side is that they have been playing together for a while now, some have even played together at the junior level and complement each other quite well. Gone are those days when the Indian eves would appear unsure, sloppy and panic in crunch situations.
Rewind to the 2013 FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals held at Rotterdam – where the Indian eves barely avoided the wooden spoon, getting mauled by top teams like Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand. India were thrashed 1-8 by the Netherlands, 1-7 by Germany and 0-7 by New Zealand. Since those lows, the Indian eves have really worked its way and bagged a creditable bronze medal at the 2014 Incheon Asiad, pipping higher ranked Japan in the play-off tie 2-1.
A rejuvenated side at the moment
The sequence of heavy defeats against top teams appears to be a thing of the past for the Indian eves. At the Hawke’s Bay Cup, India settled for a brave goalless draw against world number two Australia, who drubbed us 8-1 in the 2012 Champions Challenge Event in Dublin. India narrowly lost 1-2 to fifth ranked China and were highly competitive in their 2-4 loss to the USA – they got the better of Japan like the Incheon Asiad to finish seventh among eight top teams taking part.
The national women’s team have not allowed the resignation of the head coach to affect their performance. So what if the team was without a full-fledged coach for more than four months after Aussie Neil Hawgood stepped down late last year.
New Zealander Anthony Thornton was picked to replace Hawgood, but the former had health issues, underwent a surgery, required rest for a few months, prompting Hockey India and SAI to pick Canadian Mathias Arhens to take charge (one of the two who were in the original standby list).
Surely, Arhens has a tough job at hand with only a month to prepare the side for the second FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals to be held in Belgium next month. But the biggest plus the Canadian has is the settled look of this side.
Skipper Ritu Rani is a calming influence in the midfield, while vice captain Deepika has been an asset in defence as well as in midfield. The forwardline is a hugely talented one with the likes of Rani Rampal, Poonam Rani and Vandana Katariya.
The upcoming Hockey World League Semifinals will be exciting times for the Indian women’s team to further reinforce the belief that they are moving fast on the ‘improvement track’.