Impressed by Lalremsiami, Captain Rani Rampal Demands Better Decision Making to Fulfill Tokyo Dream
In her first tournament, the Asian Champions Trophy in Korea in 2016, Lalremsiami played 31 minutes and scored twice – it was enough to bag the ‘U-21 Rising Star Award’. Unheralded talent and an eagerness to learn at all times is what epitomises the young Mizo forward.
Indian Women's Hockey Team. (Hockey India Image)
New Delhi: “When I see her, I think I have plenty to learn from her. She’s an imaginative player, and hard working too.” The Indian women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal had this to say when asked about the youngest player on the team Lalremsiami – a promising forward who broke into the team in her teens, just like her captain in 2010. While Rampal made her debut at 15, ‘Siami’ as she is known in the team, began her career aged 16.
In her first tournament, the Asian Champions Trophy in Korea in 2016, she played 31 minutes and scored twice – it was enough to bag the ‘U-21 Rising Star Award’. Unheralded talent and an eagerness to learn at all times is what epitomises the young Mizo forward.
“She reminds me of when I began my career,” Rampal says. “Siami will play for at least another decade at the highest level.”
The 18-year-old though has understandably not had it easy with the national team, but her drive and mental strength has ensured she becomes one of the focal points of the Indian attack within two years of breaking into the team. She set the ball rolling by scoring early against Italy at the recently concluded World Cup and, along with Udita, Navneet Kaur and the captain created a lot of chances to score in London.
“Lalremsiami’s mental strength must be applauded. Imagine being in a situation where communication is so important and you are unable to speak,” former Indian women’s team coach Harendra Singh exclaimed.
Lalremsiami was spotted by Singh and he partnered Rani Rampal as her roommate so that the latter could help the prodigy communicate better. At 16, Siami was unable to understand Hindi or English, which led to some very teary-eyed moments on the substitute’s bench. Over time the team developed a method of using bullet points to explain tactics to her.
“Didi (Rani Rampal) bahut achi hai and she is always helpful not matter what,” the young forward says with a broad grin on the eve of their departure for the Asian Games.
In 2014 in Incheon at the Asian Games, India returned with Bronze, while two years later they failed to register a win at the Rio Olympics and was among the lowest scorers in the competition. At the World Cup as well, India had a problem scoring goals, (5 in 5 games with Italy beaten by a 3-0 margin) but managed to concede only three. Out of 20 penalty corners only three were converted.
In Indonesia, an Olympic berth is at stake, but for that, nothing less than gold will do. India is grouped with South Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan and the hosts Indonesia. In the other group are China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. Matchday 1 is on Sunday, August 19 in Jakarta.
For the Rani Rampal-led side, scoring more goals is of utmost importance as the defensive issues seem to have sorted themselves out.
“Our attack has suffered a lot due to positioning and decision making mistakes and we have to make sure that does not happen at the Asiad,” according to the skipper.
Rio was a terrible bump on the road for this team, but things have changed ever since. Currently, the focus is solely on performing well at the continental meet such that there are minimal or no weaknesses in the preparations for the Olympics – the eventual target.
In Asia, India has made their presence felt as a force to reckon with after their title winning performance at the Asia Cup in 2017 and the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, in 2017 the finished runners-up in the latter.
After the World Cup in London, coach Sjoerd Marijne made no bones about the fact that they could have done better than finishing in the last eight, and quickly set the target for more glory in August and September. It was in the beginning of the summer that Marijne and (Harendra) Singh swapped positions.
“Both Marijne Sir and Harendra Sir have coached us previously, and neither at any point made us change our style, but allowed us to play freely and attack,” Rampal explains when asked about how the change in coaches had panned out.
The team hasn’t got too much time to prepare for the Asian Games, but understand what they have to do and are focused on the job. The expectations are high, but on meeting them, the rewards are tremendous too.
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