Looking back at the year 2018 that saw Indian women’s hockey team win a silver medal at the 18th Asian Games and silver at the women’s Asian Champions Trophy, skipper Rani emphasised that her team no longer fears world’s top teams.
“Though we would have preferred to win gold medal at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang as well as the Asian Champions Trophy, I believe overall, we had a good outing in 2018.
“Beating England 2-1 at the Commonwealth Games, a 1-1 draw against them at their home turf during the women’s World Cup in London and a low-scoring 0-1 loss to Australia in the semi-final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has given the team tremendous confidence and a self-belief that we can give top teams a run for their money in big-ticket tournaments. We are no longer considered an underdog team by our opponents and that’s our biggest takeaway from 2018,” emphasized the skipper from Haryana.
While their good show at the women’s World Cup in London where they made the quarter finals for the first time in four decades spurred their world ranking to career-best world number 9, Rani feels the Indian team has great potential to improve further in future events.
“The brighter side of 2018 was our U-18 team doing well at the Youth Olympic Games where they won a silver medal. With fresh talent coming into the core group, the seniors too want to improve their individual performance to stay relevant to the team.
There is healthy competition within the core group and the pool of players is bigger now with a good mix of youngsters and seniors who have played together for more than four years. I’m quite confident if we continue to improve at the pace we are at this moment, we stand a good chance of climbing up the world ranking further,” she said.
She also added that working with an elite hockey star like Glenn Turner who was invited by Hockey India to conduct a special camp for forwards has helped the team tremendously.
“In December, we had a special coaching camp for strikers where we worked under Australian great Glenn Turner. He gave critical inputs after watching us play closely. Though he did not drastically change how we play, his detailing and inputs were extremely helpful in positioning of forwards within the striking circle. We had struggled in this area during our past events, missing scoring opportunities. Now when we return to the national camp, we will further ensure what we learnt from him is implemented,” she said.
Speaking of the year 2019, Rani said the team’s ultimate goal will be to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “We will be reporting to the national camp in the first week of January and begin our preparations in this crucial Olympic cycle where we will be playing Olympic qualifiers. Though personally I still regret not winning the gold medal at the Asian Games which would have earned us direct qualification, I believe the result has only motivated and instilled a fighting spirit in us,” Rani concluded.