Indian women's hockey team coach Janneke Schopman has placed a lot of emphasis on the upcoming FIH Pro League. Schopman feels it will help the Indian team brace themselves for an action-packed season.
The Indian team will play Spain in their FIH Pro League matches on February 26 and 27 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. The matches against the Netherlands have been postponed after the Dutch women's team pulled out due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Addressing the media virtually, Schopman said she is looking at how the Indian team can fine tune their game plan for the upcoming two matches against Spain.
"I want our team to perform and to be able to be at our best in a tournament like the World Cup or Asian Games. The players need to be at the level where they get the experience they need. With the pandemic happening, our players haven't had that experience in the last two and a half years of playing actual games."
"So, the Pro League will be a lot about how people are preserving their sport, making sure that they can play and then also fine tuning our gameplay."
An important season lies ahead for the team, with several big-ticket tournaments like the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Janneke Schopman believes the time is ripe for some experiments in the line-up.
"You'll see changes in our lineup, but I'm not going to bring in 10-15 new players or something," she said.
Janneke Schopman feels team are moving in the right direction
Despite not getting the desired result in the Asian Hockey Cup last month, Janneke Schopman is happy with the team's progress. The Indian team failed to defend its title at the Asian Hockey Cup last month in Muscat, finishing third.
However, they began their Pro League campaign with a bang, drubbing China 7-1.
"The girls did really well. Of course we didn't get the results we wanted in terms of the score line but I was quite happy to see progress throughout the tournament into the Pro League," Janneke Schopman said.
"I'm really trying to focus on the way we want to play and how do we want to attack and how do we want to look as a team and I think we made big steps there. So overall, it wasn't a good experience not great in terms of outcomes, but good in terms of progressm."
Two Indian teams a possibility in future
Janneke Schopman said fielding different teams for different tournaments is a possibility. The idea of fielding two teams for two different tournaments comes in the wake of the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games being scheduled in close proximity this year.
The Indian team will likely be focusing on the Asian Games, as a gold medal will pave the way for a direct Olympic qualification. However, thoughts of a burnout will also linger with the same team participating in back-to-back big ticket tournaments.
The Asian Games will commence in about a month after the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games.
"India is having discussions about that. I don't know yet what the plan will be. We are right now really focusing on the World Cup. And of course, the Asian Games is the most important tournament this year where we want to qualify directly for the Olympics."
"We're currently under construction. We're looking at what will be the best way for us to prepare."