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Scarred yet striving for gold

india Updated: Sep 16, 2010 00:56 IST
B Shrikant

For a team that has failed to achieve much in FIH-organised tournaments, the Commonwealth Games has been a happy hunting ground for the India women's hockey team.

The women have reached the final of the last two editions, their golden victory against hosts England in Manchester in 2002 being the crowning glory. Four years later, they narrowly missed out on gold as they lost 0-1 to Australia in Melbourne.

As they gear up to take on the challengers at home, the women's team would be hoping to maintain the momentum and regain the gold medal it bagged in 2002.

Though Australia are the most successful team overall, having bagged two out of the three gold medals, England will be the team to beat in Delhi as they have shown tremendous improvement in recent times.

England stunned everyone by bagging their maiden World Cup medal in Rosario, Argentina, last week and would be hoping to go all the way in the Delhi Games. While England bagged bronze at Rosario, the Hockeyroos finished fifth while their Indian counterparts could manage the ninth position. Even New Zealand, the other strong team in the mix, finished above India at seventh, indicating the improvement in their performance.

But the CWG is a different cup of tea as far as the India women are concerned and they remain top contenders for gold despite the recent controversies and upheavals in the team.

The India players showed tremendous character in regrouping from a poor start in the World Cup despite playing under a new coaching setup after MK Kaushik was sacked last month following allegations of sexual harassment. New coaches Sandeep Somesh, Khalid Modi, Pritam Rani and Sandeep Kaur took charge soon after the team's return from the Asian Champions Trophy in Korea and did not get enough time to work together. And it showed as the team lost the first three matches in the World Cup.

The players will have to be at their best if they hope to win a medal in the Delhi Games.

Somesh is optimistic about the team's chances but cautious, as the wounds caused by the recent happenings off the field are still raw. "Finishing on the podium is the main aim. We have a good mix of players and the ability to do well. The team has always done well in the Games, reaching the final of the last two editions. But things have changed since but we hope to maintain that record," he told HT on Wednesday.