The tears at the end of the Tokyo Olympics accompanied a historic achievement. Finishing fourth in the final standings may mean missing a medal by a hair’s breadth, but an Indian women’s hockey team had never finished so high at the Games. He followed a welcome chance to make his Pro League debut, where India finished third, ahead of the likes of Belgium, Spain, Germany and England – winning six of their 14 matches.
A vital cog missing in the team’s wheel during the Pro League was inspirational skipper Rani. A hamstring injury sidelined her for 10 months, before she finally returned for the European tour. But coach Janneke Schopman gave Rani just one Pro League game on the circuit, her 250th cap, but the central striker looked like she had never been injured at all.
It looked like India’s setup was complete just before two big events – the World Cup in Spain and the Netherlands, followed by the Commonwealth Games in England. The team was announced with all names except one – Rani.
WHY EXACTLY IS RANI NOT IN THE WORLD CUP SQUAD?
It was a surprise to many to see Rani’s name missing from the World Cup squad, but Coach Schopman, who played interestingly against Rani in the 2010 World Cup, has publicly stated that Rani had not yet fully recovered from his injury.
(Rani with coach Janneke Schopman – Photo: Hockey India)
“As for the selection, it would be better if you asked the coach,” the India captain and goalkeeper said. Savita Punia when interacting with timesofindia.com three days before India open their World Cup campaign against England on July 3.
“I think it would be better if we talked about the players who are there (have been selected). Whatever combination or team we have, we are happy with it… Certainly Rani has been a great player for India and was part of the team for a long time, but again for me to comment on this (it won’t be fair).”
Savita gave up on adding more to a selection decision which raised more eyebrows when Rani was not included in the squad for the Commonwealth Games, starting July 28 in Birmingham, either.
“This decision was taken by the coach. Some injuries are such that it takes time to recover, but if young players have entered the team, they too are doing a good job in their position,” added the skipper to complete his answer. on issues related to team selection.
THE JINX SEMI-FINAL
Ranked 8th in the world, India is grouped with England (4th), New Zealand (9th) and China (13th) in Pool B this time.
Seeking to break the curse and advance to a World Cup semi-final, India will have to endure a league phase against two FIH top 10 ranked teams and a competitive China.
(Savita Punia – Photo: @savitahockey Twitter)
At the 2018 World Cup in England, India lost their quarter-final to Ireland in a shootout (3-1) after the 60-minute regulation period ended 0-0.
But Savita thinks things are different this time after a historic Olympics finish and an opportunity to play against top Pro League sides ahead of the World Cup.
“If you see the last World Cup, we lost the quarter-finals in the shootout, but after that we focused on the Asian Games (won silver) and then we kept improving and preparing for the Tokyo Olympics (finished fourth) and then the Pro League,” said Savita, who took over as India captain after Rani was injured. TimesofIndia.com.
“So I think our preparation is going in the right direction. Our performance before the World Cup matters a lot. But we’re going one game at a time. Our first game is against England (July 3), so for the right now we’re just focusing on that.”
It’s been a year since Schopman took over from Sjoerd Marijne as head coach after the Tokyo Olympics. But she has been part of the system for two years now, having been Marijne’s assistant before replacing him.
Savita thinks that has helped, especially since Marijne and Schopman are of Dutch descent, so the mindset and coaching philosophies are similar.
“Every coach has their own style and there is always one difference or another. But one good thing is that Sjoerd and Schopman are Dutch, and the other good thing is that she (Schopman) was with us for a year before. succeeding Sjoerd,” Savita said.
“At that time (when Schopman was helping Marijne) we also focused on offensive hockey and it’s the same now, but we also focus on defense. We are happy with the way we train. the 31-year-old from Haryana, who was also part of the 2014 (bronze) and 2018 (silver) Asian Games squads, said TimesofIndia.com.
THE TARGET THIS TIME AT THE WORLD CUP
India’s main objective, as in previous editions of the World Cup, is to enter the top four; and from there if they have at least one good day, they will be on the podium.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but Savita also said that this time the Indian team enters the tournament with a goal they cannot share.
“Certainly there is a goal… We have a team goal and we will do our best to achieve it. We cannot share it with you exactly at this stage because we missed a medal after being one. so close to the Olympics. The coach was happy with the performance, but we didn’t have a medal to show. We want to fill that void at the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games,” said Savita, who has 225 appearances in the senior squad and who will turn 32 during the World Cup.
“But again, performance matters more to us. I’m often asked if we can finish on the podium. Of course, (we can). We all work hard to achieve that.”
FIH WOMEN’S WORLD CUP DATES: July 1 to 17
WORLD CUP HOSTS: Netherlands and Spain
WORLD CUP POOLS:
Pool A: Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Chile
Pool B: India, England, New Zealand, China
Pool C: Argentina, Spain, Korea, Canada
Pool D: Australia, Belgium, Japan, South Africa
POOL EQUIPMENT AND HOURS IN INDIA (IST):
July 3: India vs England, 8 p.m.
July 4: India vs China, 8 p.m.
July 7: India vs New Zealand, 11 p.m.
Goalkeepers: Savita Punia (c), Bichu Devi
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka (vc), Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Udita
Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Salima Tete
Attackers: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi
Standby: Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Sangita Kumari
You Can Read Also