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Commonwealth Games: India hockey goalie Savita Punia excited with ‘coaching’ role

While chief coach Harendra Singh would be directing his players from near the dugout, goalkeeper Savita Punia would be instructing the Indian women’s hockey team while guarding the goalpost at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

other sports Updated: Mar 21, 2018 23:30 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Commonwealth Games,Savita Punia,Indian women’s hockey team
Savita Punia will be a key member of the Indian women’s hockey team in the upcoming Commonwealth Games.(HT Photo)

When the Indian women’s hockey team begins its campaign in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games starting on April 4, they will have two coaches to guide them every game.

While chief coach Harendra Singh would be directing his players from near the dugout, goalkeeper Savita Punia would be instructing her teammates while guarding the goalpost.

It would be an altogether new role for Savita, who decided to attend last week’s Asian Hockey Federation High Performance Goalkeeper Training and Coaching Course in Muscat, Oman on the sidelines of the Asian Games qualifying matches. She was rested for the recent South Korea tour and Hockey India sent her to Oman for the special session ahead of the Gold Coast Games.

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“That’s a wonderful experience for me. In the three-day training, I learnt a lot, and it has upgraded my understanding about goalkeeping,” Savita said in a chat on Wednesday.

India’s saviour

Savita, whose stunning save in the shootout helped India win the Asia Cup last year by defeating China and qualify for this year’s World Cup, said the training in Oman has improved her understanding of how to position players while defending a penalty corner.

“I had a routine outlook for this tactic, but now I understand the positioning of each defender while defending the penalty corner hit. If one succeeded in this area, it will be a big help in winning a match,” said Savita, who has served Indian women’s hockey for nine years.

Staying calm

She said the one big lesson she learnt at the training-cum-coaching sessions in Muscat was to stay calm under pressure. “Sometimes I used to get excited during a match, but I was taught how to remain cool and calm. It matters a lot, especially when you are in a pressure situation,” she said. “The coaches in Oman told me about some secrets of defence, which I will share with my teammates.”

The 27-year-old feels the CWG team led by striker Rani is balanced and mature. Savita said she has her own way of communicating with teammates to do well in a match. “I know every player in the team very well, and we have our own communication system to handle any situation. I know it makes a big difference when are in an attacking mode.”

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The Haryana player felt Harendra, who coached the junior men to the 2016 World Cup before being handed charge of the senior women’s team, has infused positivity in the team. “He always tells us to adopt a positive approach, and it’s a great motivator in the team’s success. That’s one of the reasons we excelled in the Asia Cup and in the recent series in South Korea.”

The high point of the Indian women’s hockey team in CWG came in 2002 Manchester, when they upstaged hosts England to win gold. They won silver in 2006 Melbourne, losing to Australia in the final.

However, the Indian women ended fifth in 2010 New Delhi and 2014 Glasgow, which should give the current lot plenty of motivation.

Savita is confident of the team finishing on a high. “We all are working hard on this mission, and are determined to return home with the gold.”

First Published: Mar 21, 2018 18:21 IST