The women's hockey team completed India's sweep at the Asian Champions Trophy, winning its maiden title just days after the men won theirs, but there is little time for the girls to either celebrate the achievement or share it with their families.
The team was busy preparing for its return soon after lifting the trophy in Singapore and, having returned home late on Sunday night, has gone straight to training mode given that it has to leave again in a week for the next competition. No wonder the players and coach Neil Hawgood have been struggling with both the jet-lag and the poor conditions in the city that has hampered their plans.
“We will be leaving on Monday for a three-test series against Australia and so the girls are all in Delhi only, there is no time to go home and come back. The conditions have been poor but it has improved a bit since we came back so may be we will train briefly now on,” Hawgood told Sportstar.
The tournament was the team's first outing since the Rio Olympics, where the team finished 12th after qualifying for the first time in 36 years and Hawgood admitted that it was a great way for the girls to show that they had learnt some lessons from the Rio outing. “Winning the title here was very important to show that the Rio experience was fruitful. There is more confidence now and the girls are more consistent. The only Asian team we played at Rio was against Japan and it needs some understanding to realise that the, regardless of the result, team is making progress,” he added.
Part of that progress is the team management's decision to keep trying out new faces in an attempt to develop a stronger core of players. As such, Hawgood admitted their might be changes in the squad on the Australia tour purely to “provide more exposure to newer faces” and compete against a much stronger opponent.
Deepika Thakur, one of the senior-most players in the side who struck home the rebound in the dying seconds of the final to ensure victory, admitted that having lost to China a day before in their last league match rankled. “We were upset and angry and badly wanted to get level, which made the win even more satisfying,” she said.
Rani Rampal, who set up that penalty corner in the end, was more circumspect. “The Rio experience was more about the mind than only the game. There was so much more to see and learn there away form the game, including the way we approached the matches, the way we thought about the opposition and the whole attitude. All that helped us take a lot more confidence into the ACT and the title will only help us grow further,” she said.
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