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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Asian Champions Trophy: India women's hockey team look to showcase real potential

India lost 0-4 to China in the semi-finals of Asian Games in Hangzhou but defeated Japan 2-1 to clinch bronze medal

Our Bureau, PTI Calcutta, Ranchi Published 27.10.23, 07:33 AM
India players during a practice session ahead of the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi.

India players during a practice session ahead of the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi. PTI picture

The failure to clinch the gold medal at the Asian Games still fresh on their mind, the Indian women will look to showcase their real potential in the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT). India begin their campaign with a match against Thailand in Ranchi on Friday.

India lost 0-4 to China in the semi-finals of the Asian Games women’s hockey in Hangzhou but defeated Japan 2-1 to clinch the bronze medal.

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The bronze, however, was a disappointing result for the Indians, who started as favourites and were eyeing a gold in the Asian Games, which would have given them a direct ticket to next year’s Paris Olympics.

“We were confident of winning the gold,” captain Savita Punia told The Telegraph during a virtual interaction on Thursday. “We were well prepared but not overconfident.

“But some days things do not fall in place. It happens. We were not able to perfom to our potential in the semi-final against China and, as we realised we were on the way to defeat and that we will not be able to seal the Olympic berth, our game disintegrated further.

“But all that is in the past and we were all ready for a new beginning.”

Six teams, including hosts India, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand will compete in the tournament. As per the format, all six teams will play each other in the round-robin league stage and the top-four teams will advance to the semi-finals.

India’s chief coach Janneke Schopman has named a tried and tested side, with the only notable absentee from the Asian Games squad being experienced midfielder Sushila Chanu, who suffered a suspected Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. Baljeet Kaur has replaced Sushila in the squad.

Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, who too was in the Asian Games squad, has been named as a replacement player along with Sharmila Devi and will travel with the squad as back-up option.

After Thailand, India will play Malaysia (October 28), China (October 30), Japan (October 31) and Korea (November 2). The semi-finals and final are scheduled for November 4 and 5.

The Indians were near-perfect at the Asian Games barring that one bad day against China in the semi-finals and they would look to erase that memory and make a fresh start in the ACT.

“After our loss to China, our coach (Janneke Schopman) gave us one day to weep, mope and overcome our disappointment.

“From the next day, she said, we have to meet and plan our next course of action. We had to defeat Japan in order to get a podium finish. We did and got the bronze,” said Punia.

Her views were echoed by vice-captain and senior player Deep Grace Ekka. “Yes, the loss and the failure to directly qualify for Paris shook us badly. But we looked ahead to the medal we still had to fight for. And we did secure it.”

Added Punia: “This tournament will also help us prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympics Qualifiers, which will also be hosted in Ranchi. This tournament serves as a vital preparatory test.”

India’s chief coach Schopman agreed with Savita. “Playing these matches ahead of the Olympic qualifiers is a great opportunity. It allows us to study the other teams and assess how players perform their assigned roles.”

India will also aim to secure their second women’s Asian Champions Trophy title after seven years.

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