Indian women’s hockey team’s captain Savita Punia and vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka are confident of the girls learning from the twin defeats to Belgium and making a strong comeback in the remaining four-match before the upcoming World Cup.
The next challenge for the team will be the double-header against Argentina at Rotterdam, Netherlands followed by two matches against the United States at the same venue.
The Indian women’s hockey team had left the country a few days back for FIH Pro League matches and the subsequent Women’s World Cup on a confident note.
But the 1-2 and 0-5 defeats to Belgium in successive Pro League matches have proved a dampener for the players and fans. However, skipper Savita was confident that the girls will learn from their mistakes and will show a strong improvement in the upcoming matches.
Besides the Pro League, the Indian women’s team’s major engagements this season include the FIH Women’s World Cup in Spain and Netherlands next month and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, starting on July 28.
Both Savita and Deep Grace Ekka believe that the two matches against Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Argentina (June 18 and 19) and the United States (June 21 and 22) will help the team get into the right shape and midset for the World Cup to be held from July 1-17.
“We could not perform against Belgium as per the expectations. But the two matches have been good for the team as we were able to test the players and make them play in different positions," said Savita.
Argentina have already won the FIH Pro League title with 38 points and the results of the two matches against India will have no bearing on the title. The Netherlands, the World and Olympic champions, are second with 32 points while India are third with 22 points.
However, India will have some unfinished business to settle with Argentina after losing to them in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympic Games last year.
Though India have come a long way from where they were before the Olympics in terms of results and rankings, Argentina are quite strong and will be a tough challenge for Savita and her team.
Speaking ahead of their matches against Argentina, the Indian women’s hockey team captain Savita said they had two training sessions after the matches against Belgium and tried to rectify the problems they had faced against Belgium.
“Our preparations are going on well. We had two great training sessions and everyone has focused on improving their game. We are looking forward to our matches against Argentina and looking to perform as a team and as individuals. We are quite confident ahead of the matches as we played a good game against Argentina in the Semifinal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," Savita said during a pre-match online interaction on Thursday.
The goalkeeper also spoke about the team’s specific training on penalty corners, “We are working on improving our execution with regards to Penalty Corners. During our practice sessions, the players trained with the best mindset and worked on earning penalty corners and executing shots on goal. Hopefully, the players will improve upon executing penalty corners in our upcoming matches as well."
The Indian women’s hockey team vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka expressed that the team is fully prepared for their matches against Argentina.
“We have learned a lot about our own games during our practice sessions after our matches against Belgium. We have corrected the mistakes we made in our previous matches and we are fully prepared for our next challenge."
Speaking about the advice she has given to the young players ahead of the World Cup and Commonwealth Games, defender Deep Grace Ekka said, “When I had first joined the team, my seniors had told me to just replicate whatever I was doing during practice. So even I tell the same thing to the young players in our team. And the more we keep things simple, the better it is for us. Before we receive the ball, we should be aware of where our team members are standing so that we can pass the ball quickly."
Savita admitted that the team has played more matches preparing for the World Cup than it had ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and will also be marked out by the opponents after finishing fourth in the Olympics. However, she said the players have improved a lot in the last couple of years and are confident that they have gained enough experience to take on the top teams.
While the World Cup and Commonwealth Games are the main targets for the team, the immediate concern is to do well in the remaining Pro League matches. That will give the girls the much-needed confidence to do well in the two big events.