India's success against top-ranked nations this year has instilled a new self-belief and helped the women's hockey team shed its underdog tag, believes skipper Rani Rampal.
Talking about Indian women's hockey team's historic 2018, they clinched silver at the 18th Asian Games. Further, they even claimed silver at the Asian Champions Trophy later this year. Lastly, they ended their World Cup campaign, in London, in the quarterfinals and came fourth place at Commonwealth Games (held in April).
Speaking about the Indian women's team's rollicking 2018, Rani said, "Though we would have preferred to win gold medal at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang as well as the Asian Champions Trophy, I believe overall, we had a good outing in 2018. Beating England 2-1 at the Commonwealth Games, a 1-1 draw against them at their home turf during the Women's World Cup in London and a 0-1 loss to Australia in the semi-final at Gold Coast has given the team tremendous confidence and a self-belief.
We can give top teams a run for their money in big-ticket tournaments. We are no longer considered an underdog team by our opponents and that's our biggest takeaway from 2018," added Rani.
At present, India are ranked world number 9 due to their prolific run in the just-about-to-conclude 2018.
Rani further highlighted that the basics are getting stronger. "The brighter side of 2018 was our U-18 team doing well at the Youth Olympic Games where they won a silver medal. With fresh talent coming into the core group, the seniors too want to improve their individual performance to stay relevant to the team. There is healthy competition within the core group and the pool of players is bigger now with a good mix of youngsters and seniors who have played together for more than four years. I'm quite confident if we continue to improve at the pace we are at this moment, we stand a good chance of climbing up the World Ranking further," she added.
Rani stated that working with an elite hockey star like Australia's Glenn Turner who was invited by Hockey India to conduct a special camp for forwards has assisted the team to a great extend.
"In December, we had a special coaching camp for strikers where we worked under Australian great Glenn Turner. He gave critical inputs after watching us play closely. Though he did not drastically change how we play, his detailing and inputs were extremely helpful in positioning of forwards within the striking circle. We had struggled in this area during our past events, missing scoring opportunities. Now when we return to the National Camp, we will further ensure what we learnt from him is implemented," she said.
Just like India men's hockey team's skipper, Manpreet Singh, Rani also clarified that her team's ultimate goal will be to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in the upcoming year. "We will be reporting to the National Camp in the first week of January and begin our preparations in this crucial Olympic cycle where we will be playing Olympic Qualifiers. Though personally I still regret not winning the Gold Medal at the Asian Games which would have earned us direct qualification, I believe the result has only motivated and instilled a fighting spirit in us," Rani concluded.
About the Author
Aditya Sahay, a former cricket reporter/writer and statistician, has shifted gears to other sports (primarily badminton, tennis, kabaddi, hockey, golf etc). While cricket remains his first love, he enjoys covering and writing on kabaddi, hockey and tennis. He dons Germanys jersey during FIFA and believes Dhoni Dhoni hai, isko (aur) mauka mila toh bahut aage jayega