Back in town after less than two months and with a much larger target, the Indian women’s hockey team will be hoping that the massive crowd support that propelled it to the top last time around will continue when the Olympic Qualifiers begin here on Saturday.
Following a 4-2 loss to Germany on Tuesday, the squad played its second practice match on Thursday, winning 2-0 against Czech Republic. As the players and coach Janneke Schopman drew out the best possible lineup, there was one intriguing figure in the defence – Gurjit Kaur, the drag-flicker who appeared to be out of favour but was here as a stand-by.
The absence of the seasoned Deep Grace Ekka, who Schopman mysteriously told the media earlier in the day to “tell herself why she is not here,” made Gurjit’s appearance all the more intriguing because it demonstrated India’s dearth of options in both the defence and penalty corner departments. Her level of fitness and performance on the pitch appeared to raise more questions than they did answers. During the following nine days, India’s work would be difficult because Vandana Katariya is also sidelined due to injury.
During the conversation, PCs were also the major topic, with Schopman downplaying her expectations and maintaining her trust in Deepika. The PC is a crucial component of the game, and Rupinder Singh is an expert player. Speaking with him and getting knowledge from him at the training we had before coming here was really beneficial for the drag-flickers. Despite Deepika’s youth, she gave a good performance, the woman emphasised.
Captain Savita liked to highlight India’s advantages. “We witnessed firsthand how the crowd elevates performance during the Asian Champions Trophy, so we will undoubtedly count on it again.” Everyone is here to earn a spot in the Olympics, so it won’t be easy, but we’ll concentrate on our advantages rather than their disadvantages.
“Our ultimate goal is to do well in Paris in addition to qualifying. However, we have put in a lot of work and are currently concentrating on this immediate goal, so we are not looking too far ahead,” she continued.
When asked about Germany’s favourites, Savita acknowledged that the group struggled in the practise match. Recall that up until a few years ago, it was difficult for us to even enter their half of the field during a game. We can now challenge them, and in fact, the reason we lost the practice match was that we didn’t follow our game plan during the fourth quarter. So we are aware of our options,” she remarked.
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