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India to go all out against Aussies

The Indian women?s hockey team will open its title defence against hosts Australia on Thursday.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 19:02 IST

The Indian women’s hockey team will open its title defence against hosts Australia on Thursday.

“We know the expectations and have prepared accordingly,” said coach MK Kaushik on Wednesday. The team, always under the shadow of the men’s side, has been performing well the last couple of years. After the Manchester Games gold it had won the Asia Cup title and finished second in the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup. The current team has six of the Manchester players, including — from Mamta Kharab and goalkeeper Helen Mary.

“No matter what, we have to play well. The opening matches are always crucial for both the teams,” said Kaushik, who had to skip the opening ceremony because of the match. “The first match usually gives us the rhythm for the entire event.” When a chilly gust swept through the stadium, Kaushik’s spontaneous reaction was, “This is Melbourne. You can’t predict the weather.” He said India will play aggressively: “We’ll go out for a win. We’ll attack.” Attack he will because he felt the Aussies play an open game and concentrate on zonal play. “We are not used to defending, so we’ll have to attack.” Though he admitted that there would be pressure on the team as defending champions, he thought it wouldn’t distract the players.

“Pressure’s part of the game. We knew about it so my support staff and I talked to all the athletes individually to pep them up. That’s all we can do,” he said.

Like the men, the women couldn’t find a team for a practice match. “We just managed one match against Barbados,” re vealed a team official. “The teams were all booked because they had already decided their engagements before coming here.” That should not affect the Indian team, felt Kaushik. “We have adjusted well to the conditions and the most important thing is the weather here. It’s unpredictable and we have adjusted as much as we can.” Medals likely IN WEIGHTLIFTING, veteran fighter Kunjarani Devi will step into the lifting arena at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre at 2 in the afternoon. And though the team is missing the services of dope offender Shailaja Pujari and Prameela Boradi (a mysterious drop out minutes before the flight to Melbourne), there is enough indication that the team might win a few medals. Vicky Batta, in the men’s 56kg, is another medal hope who will be in action on Thursday.

The lifters are under such heavy surveillance that even at the Games Village here, random samples have been taken since their arrival on March 10.

“They are the most watched athletes,” said one of the officials.

TEAMS India: Helen Mary, Rajni Bala; Kanti Baa, Rajwinder Kaur, Nilima Kujur; Sumrai Tete, Asunta Lakra, Subhadra Pradhan, Masira Surin, Jyoti Sunita Kullu, Mamta Kharab, Surinder Kaur, Jasjeet Kaur, Saba Anjum, Sanggai Ibemhal Chanu, Sarita Lakra.

Australia: Wendy Alcorn, Nicole Arrold, Madonna Blyth, Toni Cronk, Suzie Faulkner, Emily Halliday, Kate Hollywood, Nikki Hudson, Rachel Imison, Kobie McGurk, Rebecca Sanders, Angie Skirving, Karen Smith, Sarah Taylor, Melanie Twitt, Kim Walker.