India must step up aggression, says women’s national team skipper Rani Rampal
India, fresh from winning the World Hockey League Round 2 in West Vancouver, are preparing for the WHL semifinals in South Africa, which will be the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in London.other sports Updated: Apr 29, 2017 10:49 IST
The Indian women’s hockey team will have to play a more aggressive brand of hockey if they are to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in London, skipper Rani Rampal said on Thursday.
India have returned home after winning the World Hockey League Round 2 title in West Vancouver, Canada. The team’s performance, according to Rani, has been steady but there is need for improvement.
“We have the potential to qualify for the World Cup. If the players are more competitive and are able to sustain their effort throughout the match, the results will be more favourable,” Rani Rampal said.
India’s World Cup appearances have been sporadic, since they featured in the inaugural edition in 1974, which also saw their best performance, a fourth place. Out of 12 editions, India have featured only in six.
India missed out in 2014
The national team didn’t qualify for the last edition, held in The Hague, Netherlands in 2014. India were also out of the Olympics since playing in the 1980 Moscow Games. They won a qualifying event for the first time to enter the Rio Games.
The World Hockey League Semifinals will be held in Belgium from June 21 and in South Africa from July 8. There will be 10 teams in each tournament.
India are slotted in the South Africa leg. Besides the hosts, others in the fray are World League champions Argentina, Olympic bronze medalists Germany, England – many of their players figured in the Great Britain side which won gold at the Rio Olympics -- Pan-Am champions US, Ireland, Japan, Poland and Chile.
Rani said the road ahead might be challenging but the target is not unattainable. “We are on a path of revival and constantly improving. We have almost two months for the South Africa competition to iron out the weak areas. We have to stay in good health to achieve our goal.”
India’s two weak areas
Penalty-corner conversion and launching counter-attacks are the two major areas India must work on. To face teams like England and Argentina, the players have to get better in all departments of the game, Rani Rampal said. “There is little margin of error when playing a better-ranked team. Sometimes a silly mistake proves costly.”
India’s core group of players will assemble next week for the national camp in Bengaluru. To prepare for the South Africa challenge, India will play New Zealand in a bilateral series from May 12 to 24.
India’s current world ranking is 12. China are eighth, South Korea are ninth and Japan are 11th.
If Rani and teammates fail to make it in South Africa, the Asia Cup in Japan in October will provide another opportunity to qualify for the World Cup.