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Language no longer an issue for Mizo livewire: How Rani Rampal helped bridge the language barrier for Lalremsiani 

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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578   //    09 Jun 2018, 15:30 IST

Lalremsiami will be a key striker for India at London 2018
Lalremsiami will be a key striker for India at London 2018

If the opposition teams wish to take her presence lightly owing to either her age, her cherubic smile, or her diminutive frame, they are advised to do so at their own peril. She prowls near the goalmouth, waiting to outmaneuver the defenders with lightning quick reflexes and pinpoint accuracy, and is well on her way to establishing herself as one of India's most reliable strikers.

Sheer brilliance on display at Donghae

The Golden Girls were trailing 0-1 with just over ten minutes to go in the Asian Champions Trophy group match against Korea at Donghae last month when Lalremsiami took it upon herself to restore parity. Time and options were running out for India when the Mizo striker forced her way into the Korean circle and earned a PC.

Gurjit Kaur's flick was padded way by the Korean goalie, but Lalremsiani dived down in a flash to latch onto the deflection in spite of being encircled by three Korean players. She took a tumble but in the process, acrobatically scooped the ball into the net and India drew level.

The delight of her teammates was evident as she jogged away triumphantly with many a congratulatory hug from Lilima, Neha, Navjot and captain Sunita as well.

"Gurjit jee had told us to be prepared in case there was a rebound. So, I was ready and as soon as I got a chance, I lifted the ball past the goalie," said Siami (as she is fondly called) making it sound as simple as a walk in the park.

Not surprisingly, she won the Rising Star Player U-21 award at Donghae despite being just 18!

Mizoram's gift to Indian hockey

She is the livewire in an Indian forward-line which seeks to attack from the very first minute.

"I started playing hockey at home in my village and continued the same in school, although the game is not very popular in my state. I then moved to a hostel at Thenzawl," said the young striker as she recalled her childhood in Mizoram.

"I joined the National Hockey Academy in Delhi in December 2016 as a junior and then made the transition from the junior to the senior team."

Her brilliance was evident right from the outset. It was in December 2016 that Lalremsiami played for India in the U-18 Asia Cup. In a vital encounter against the Chinese, she gave India the lead as early as the 7th minute and added a second just before the long breather as India won the encounter by a 3-2 margin.

"I really played well and it was my first international tournament as well," says the young striker as she reminisces about the Bangkok outing with a sense of pride.

At the senior level, she was just as lethal and scored against Singapore in the very first match of the Asia Cup at Japan. In the semifinal against the hosts, she scored a crucial goal for India in the 38th minute, as the Golden Girls beat Japan to progress to the final.

"Eric Sir taught us angular running techniques"

At last month's Asian Champions Trophy, Lalremsiani was in the thick of the action and looked unstoppable. She weaved her way past the opposition defenders creating several chances in the striking circle.

In the group match against Malaysia, India had taken a 2-0 lead, but the Malaysian girls reduced the deficit by virtue of a penalty stroke. In the 40th minute, India earned a free hit after a stick-check on Neha Goyal.

Suman Thoudam took the free hit just outside the Korean 25-yard line with a back pass to captain Sunita Lakra who was positioned near the half-way mark. The captain's brilliantly directed pass sliced through two onlooking Koreans and found Lalremsiani who was positioned just outside the shooting circle.

The Mizo striker crouched low and used her wrists to redirect the ball goalwards with a single deft touch from the very edge of the shooting circle. The goal was brilliantly conceived and executed, so we asked Lalremsiani how she perfected these (and other) techniques.

Lalremsiani credits Analytical Coach Eric Wonink with teaching her several angular running techniques (including S-shaped runs and short runs). "Engage and disconnect" is a tactical technique which the Dutch coach taught the girls.

"Eric Sir taught us a lot," she emphasizes with the tone of a grateful pupil. "I am sure we will do extremely well in the World Cup, as we are a very good team."

Does she find it tough to communicate with her teammates?

"Didi log (the elder players) taught me Hindi and correct me often when I err in word usage. Now, I have improved a lot thanks to them." She singles out captain Rani Rampal as the one who has played the role of a guide and mentor in addition to being her roommate.

Will the bitterness of Gold Coast propel India to greater heights at London?

The loss to Australia in the Commonwealth Games semifinal still hurts the Indian camp for sure and there is still a sense of bitterness as to what could have been. When asked about how her experience was at Gold Coast and how she felt playing a big international tournament for the first time, Lalrsemsiami blurts out as to how the Hockeyroos were allowed a goal in spite of a high ball which could have been deemed dangerous.

The Mizo striker states emphatically that India could have done better in the Commonwealth Games as the team worked hard and got most things right on the pitch as well.

The dismay following India's inability to finish on the podium at Gold Coast may prove to be a driving force for the Indian girls at the World Cup in London, as they have proven to themselves and to the world that they are a force to reckon with and possess the quality to beat the very best.

For now, Lalremsiani and the team will look to perfect their skills on a tour to Spain where they will lock horns with the Spanish national side from June 10 to June 19.

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