Harendra bullish of a good CWG show

"We will be up against Australia, England, New Zealand, Malaysia. We can do much better this time because of the preparation," says the Indian national women's team coach Harendra Singh.

Indian women hockey team's coach Harendra Singh with his team during a training session.   -  K. Murali Kumar

For Harendra Singh, the experience of coaching hockey girls has turned out to be “unique.”

In his words, “I had never trained a women’s team but coaching philosophy is same. Handling the girls obviously is different. With the boys, I could use harsh words. Not here. I have to handle them carefully.”

How was the initiation? “I used to follow women’s hockey but had never watched them play live. I always felt it was a slow game. After the last two Olympics, I realised they play as fast as men. With this team, I discovered their self-esteem was high. I never criticise them for taking a decision. I know sometimes they are wrong but I back them. And they have begun to take risks. Without risks, you can’t excel.”

He did not lose time in making his point. “It took me one month to drill modern hockey, mental preparation and self-appreciation. At the Asia Cup, I did not concentrate on a medal. Just wanted them to take risks and back their instincts. Learn and move further. These girls are really good at picking lessons.”

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Looking to regain the Commonwealth Games women’s hockey gold last won in 2002, Harendra said, “CWG teams are more competitive and tougher than in Asian Games. We will be up against Australia, England, New Zealand, Malaysia. We can do much better this time because of the preparation.”

On the strength of the team, Harendra was confident, “We are good in field goals and penalty corners. Each player is a scorer. I don’t wait for one or two players to score. Gurjit Kaur has been scoring in every match. We don’t have a drag flicker and have to rely more on field goals. To me, the player who creates the goal is more important than the scorer. She does the hard work and gets into position to create a goal.”

Maintaining that India is a male-dominated country, Harendra noted, “We don’t allow our daughters to step out on their own. We must change that. My daughter travelled from Delhi to London alone when she was just two and a half years old. We have to send our daughters to the sports fields. I urge girls to sports rebels and come to the sports fields. Our girls have the potential to do better than men in sports.”

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Harendra concluded by throwing light on his style. “I use emotions as a tool to handle things. If you are emotionally attached to the team you can serve it well. I have used it in the past with the junior boys. I am using the same weapon. You have to connect emotionally with the player to get the desired results. My benchmark always keeps rising. Sport is not a place to relax. You have to be on your toes all the time. Must accept reality and adapt. Sky is the limit.”