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Now or never, for under-fire women

india Updated: Oct 08, 2010 01:44 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

What are the basics of modern hockey? Dead trapping, perfect receiving, some hard hitting and most importantly, the creation of gaps when the ball is in your possession.

But, if the evidence of the first two games is anything to go by, the Indian women have some very basic problems.

It looks like they are either fatigued, for some reason, or there is something wrong with the coaching manual. Whatever the reasons for their performances, the team that took gold at the Manchester Games in 2002 and silver at the Melbourne Games four years ago, are in deep trouble this time around. After splitting points with Scotland and then losing to Australia, the road to the semifinal looks like an obstacle course.

India’s best bet, Rani Rampal, named the FIH emerging player of the World Cup earlier this year, has showed little of her vast promise at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, and how she plays in the next two games would be crucial for India. In addition, both skipper Surinder Kaur and the experienced Saba Anjum have to learn quickly to deal with the pressure. India will play a young Trinidad and Tobago in a crucial match on Friday, but a lot will depend on how the day’s first match, between South Africa and Australia, goes. If South Africa beat the Aussies by a good margin, India would then need high-scoring wins against both T&T and the Safs.

The team’s assistant coach Pritam Rani Siwach, admitted the SA-Australia match was “crucial for us”. “Their results would make a big difference but, we still have to go all out and win both our next two matches to remain in contention.”

Head coach Sandeep Somesh was worried. “Though we started well against Australia, we missed a couple of scoring chances early on, and I was not happy at the way we played in the second-half. It isn’t just our defence that is of concern, but other areas, including fitness.”

Team insiders accept that the players’ fitness levels haven’t been up to scratch. “Since March this year, we have had at least one exposure trip a month and haven’t had the time to maintain our fitness level,” said an India player, on condition of anonymity.

“We need to have better co-ordination at least in the ground, and should rely on our strengths instead of our rivals’ weaknesses,” she said, adding, “The CWG performance would have a big impact during next month’s Asian Games.”