With Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games just nine weeks away, the national women’s hockey team isn’t enjoying success on the turf. This was evident after the opening match of the four-nation invitational tournament at Darwin in Australia.
India, led by Sushila Chanu, lost 1-4 to New Zealand as the defence line crumbled after only 15 minutes. The national team failed to reorganise itself in the second half of the match. Losing steam in the closing stages, it allowed eventual winners to pump in three goals in six minutes to swell its goal tally. India’s consolation goal came in the 58th minute.
The women’s team has been slipping on the turf since April and it doesn’t augur well for the squad.
India had earned an Olympic berth after a gap of 38 years but with the showpiece just over two months away, the form is tapering.
At the Hawkes Bay Cup at New Zealand in April, India finished sixth out of eight teams. They lost to all the teams, including Japan, New Zealand and China. They could beat only Canada. A month later, on the exposure tour to England, a decent performance was expected.
However, national coach Neil Hawgood’s wards weren’t able to draw even a single game. They lost the series 5-0. What was more discouraging was that they were blanked 7-0 in the final match of the series.
Before the departure to Darwin, Hawgood had said: “The competition will be good preparation for Olympics, but the players are not high on motivation after the series loss to England.”
During the 4-nation event, India will get the opportunity to play Japan and hosts Australia. Both teams are clubbed with India for the Rio Games. Argentina, Great Britain and USA are the teams in the pool.
Stressing the importance of developing defence, chief coach of the men’s hockey team, Roelant Oltmans, said India stand a good chance to win a medal at the Champions Trophy in London, this month. “There are times when you can’t score too many goals to win but you can certainly win by avoiding the opponents to score,” Oltmans said.