Rani Rampal: Good outing for Indian women in 2018

The Indian women’s hockey team is now more confident after its encouraging performances in 2018, says captain Rani Rampal.

Rani Rampal says her team’s major aim in 2019 would be to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The Indian women’s hockey team had a successful 2018, captain Rani Rampal has said.

In the Asian Games and the Asian Champions Trophy, Rampal’s team took the silver medal. In the Commonwealth Games, it finished fourth. Also, a quarterfinal finish at the World Cup helped the team clinch the ninth spot in world rankings.

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Looking back at the year, Rampal said, “We would have preferred to win [the] gold medal [in] the Asian Games [and] the Asian Champions Trophy. I believe, overall, we had a good outing in 2018.”

No longer the underdog

The team is now more confident, according to Rampal, after its encouraging performances. “[A win against] England 2-1 at the Commonwealth Games, a 1-1 draw against them at their home turf during the World Cup, and a 1-0 loss to Australia in the semifinal at Gold Coast have 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 is our biggest takeaway from 2018.”

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Rani feels the team has potential to improve further in the future. “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,” she said.

‘Healthy competition’

“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.

A training stint with Glenn Turner (in picture) helped the Indian women's team improve, says Rani Rampal. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

 

A training stint with Australia’s Glenn Turner helped her team tremendously, Rampal felt. “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.

‘Fighting spirit’

The team’s major aim in 2019 would be to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, according to Rampal. “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 [the] Olympic qualifiers,” she said.

“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,” she declared.