The Indian women’s team led by Rani Rampal has played their best hockey over the last two years. In 2016, it had qualified for the Olympics after 36 years. The win-less campaign in the quadrennial extravaganza didn’t deter the team from its battle to be among the best teams in the world. The numbers of the team in 2017 and 2018 reveal that much. The mettle that Rani and girls have displayed in big tournaments, against higher-ranked teams will be put under test in the next two months when they contest in two back-to-back major tournaments World Cup and Asian Games.

As they gear up for the first of those two big hurdles – the World Cup in London, beginning on Saturday – it’s pertinent to track their journey over the last four years so as to set our expectations on this fast-rising team coached now by Sjoerd Marijne.


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India had a good start to 2015 with the team travelling to Spain in February and enjoying an unbeaten run against the hosts and Germany.

The women in blue, in March, outclassed lower-ranked nations such as Ghana, Poland, Thailand and Singapore in the second round of Hockey World League in New Delhi. They averaged 6.3 goals per game in their six-match winning streak.

Against tougher opponents in the Hawke’s Bay Cup in April, however, they could manage only one win (against Japan) in five games. The consolatory win helped India finish seventh in the eight-nation tournament.

In the Hockey World League semi-finals, too, India failed to beat the higher-ranked teams. Their only win in the tournament came against Poland.

India capped off a mediocre year with a tour to Argentina, wherein they failed to win a single match against the host nation, China and Australia.


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After 36 years, the Indian women had qualified for the Olympics. Before the quadrennial extravaganza in Rio, the Indians played plenty of matches in 2016. The first three of them, they won with ridiculous ease to win the gold medal in the South Asian Games. Rani Rampal and company scored 46 goals in three games.

The journey to the Olympics from thereon, however, wasn’t a smooth ride. In the 24 games they played, they could manage only seven victories.

A month before the Olympics, the three wins in the United States tour boosted their confidence. But on the grandest stage of all, perhaps encumbered with the occasion and the history, the women couldn’t manage even a single win in five games and were knocked out of the medal playoffs.

They had a near three-month break to get over the heartbreak of the Olympics and to prepare for the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy. A resurgent women in blue put on a spirited performance to win the gold medal.

They ended the year with a 1-2 defeat to Australia in their backyard.


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India had a terrific start to 2017 with a 5-0 thrashing of Belarus in a home series. Belarus, of course, are a lower-ranked side but the Indians were clinical in the way they beat them, scoring 15 goals in the five games they played.

Ahead of the second round of the Hockey World League (HWL) in Canada, India played a tri-nation Test series there. They lost a game to Canada and drew against China.

With two thrilling wins via a shootout, including the final against Chile, India won the HWL second round.

The HWL semi-final in Johannesburg, however, was a disaster. In the seven games they played, five they lost. India also conceded 15 goals in the tournament and scored only four.

The Indians prepared for the Asia Cup in October by playing in Europe and the Australian Hockey League. What followed was a six-match winning streak that culminated in the Asia Cup title triumph. India crushed the opponents and scored 28 goals in the six games.


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With a slew of major tournaments lined up in 2018, the women’s team hoped that it would be a watershed year for women’s hockey in the country.

“I think the women’s hockey level is up now in our country. And 2018 is the biggest year for us to bring hockey to the forefront,” captain Rani Rampal had told The Field before she left for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.

The year started with a successful tour to South Korea in March, where the team won the five-match series 3-1.

Despite not finishing on the podium at the Commonwealth Games, the team’s performance – barring the bronze medal against England where it lost 0-6 – was commendable. After a surprise 2-3 loss to Wales, Rani and girls won three straight games (including a 2-1 upset over England) to qualify for the semi-finals. Despite a spirited performance, they went down 0-1 to hosts Australia. In the bronze medal match against England, they appeared physically and mentally exhausted by the defeat and were blanked 0-6.

The medalless returns by both the men and the women from Gold Coast prompted a swap of coaches. And, so far, the move has yielded better results. With Harendra Singh in charge, the men finished runners-up in the Champions Trophy at Breda. And, Sjoerd Marijne oversaw the women in their silver-medal winning campaign at Women’s Asian Champions Trophy and a 2-2 series draw in the tour to Spain.

Despite the Asian Games starting in August, Marijne said the team will go all out to win the World Cup. He told The Field “The World Cup schedule isn’t that heavy. You get a good amount of break in between matches. For us, it’s an important tournament. I know a lot of Indians are focusing on the Asian Games. But the girls worked a year and a half to qualify for the World Cup. So, we are going to focus on that and doing well in the tournament.”