Navneet Kaur: Improved fitness, fighting spirit helped India trump NZ

The striker says coach Sjoerd Marijne helped the women's team become more confident.

Navneet Kaur scored two goals in India's 3-0 win over New Zealand in the final match of the tour. - HOCKEY INDIA

Improved fitness and a ‘change in attitude’ helped the Indian women’s hockey team whitewash New Zealand 3-0 in New Zealand earlier this year, striker Navneet Kaur has said.

The confidence of the side had gone up with important wins under coach Sjoerd Marijne, pointed out Navneet, and fear of facing strong outfits disappeared. “Earlier, we feared playing against top teams like Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. We lacked that match-winning confidence and this was perhaps why many teams even considered us as underdogs,” she said.

Navneet herself contributed to the success of her team in the New Zealand tour, scoring a brace in the final match for a 3-0 win over the host team. Marijne’s thrust towards an aggressive style of play has also been a factor in the team gaining in confidence, felt Navneet.

Aggressive style of play

“Apart from winning important matches, I think there are a lot of other factors that have contributed to this change and one of them being chief coach Sjoerd’s style of play. He likes aggression, he has instilled that belief in us that we are a team that can play with good speed in our attack,” she said.

She added: “The chief coach always tells us it’s not over until the last whistle. Even during the half-time of the Olympic Qualifiers, he said we will begin the third quarter as though the scores are 0-0. We have been instilled with that fighting spirit.”

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“I also believe our improvement in fitness has been another big factor. Every girl (including newcomers) is aware of the importance of fitness, recovery and diet. Apart from this, small things like support staff encouraging us to improve internal communication, point out openly in meetings about what we can do differently in training sessions etc. These things make us feel bold and confident,” she said.

‘Excited’

Navneet looked forward to India’s Olympic campaign. “We will play our first match against the Netherlands at the Olympics and quite frankly, we are really excited to play against them because we have not faced them in the past,” she said.

Elaborating on her team’s preparatory programme for the next few days, she said: “We don't fear playing against these teams and are focused on preparing well. We are currently undergoing a week-long recovery which involves light gym session, stretching and swimming pool recovery. Resting well is also emphasised before we resume intense training from next week.”

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