No more considered as pushovers, a rejuvenated India would seek revenge against England when the two sides open their Pool B campaign in the Women’s Hockey World Cup here on Sunday.
The Indian women’s hockey team would be eager to settle scores against a side that shattered their bronze medal hopes in last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
India came tantalizingly close to claiming their maiden Olympic medal in Tokyo, only to lose 3-4 against England, who are playing as Great Britain in the showpiece.
But going into the tournament, the Indians would be high on confidence, especially after finishing a creditable third in their maiden outing in the FIH Pro League.
India’s best performance in the World Cup was a fourth-place finish at the inaugural edition in 1974, but since achieving a historic fourth place in Tokyo Games, the team has been on a phenomenal rise. The Indian women’s team achieved its best-ever world ranking, the sixth position in May, and then gave some top teams of the world a run for their money in the FIH Pro League. The Indian team finished on the podium ahead of strong sides like Belgium, Australia, and England.
Experienced goalkeeper Savita Punia performed captaincy responsibilities brilliantly since taking over from talismanic Rani Rampal, who has been sidelined since the Tokyo Games due to a hamstring injury.
Savita has been in stellar form, and she will have a young and energetic back-up in Bichu Devi Kharibam.
The backline will be under the watchful eyes of vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Udita and Nikki Pradhan, while the responsibility of building the attacks will be on the shoulders of Sushila Chanu, Neha Goyal, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Jyoti, Nisha and Monika.
Salima Tete, who has been in terrific form and is known for electrifying runs down the flanks, will need to play the linking role.
The responsibility of scoring goals will be on experienced Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Sharmila Devi.
Even though it is a well-oiled squad, India will definitely miss the experience and services of Rani.
India finished eighth in the last edition in 2018, but they are hoping for their first podium finish in this edition of the tournament and going by their form and recent results, it is definitely not impossible.
And, India’s chief coach Janekke Schopman knows the potential of her players.
”If we truly play to our potential, we play the way we know we can consistently, anything is possible. Women hockey at this moment is very tight, anyone can beat anyone,” Schopman had said.
”(But) consistency is a big point of attention. If we can play consistently well, top-4, and who knows a podium in the World Cup is a possibility.
”I think we have great potential and if we actually play to our potential we are a tough team to beat,” the 45-year-old said.
England’s best result in the World Cup is a bronze medal in the 2010 edition in Rosario, Argentina. Besides, they also finished fourth in 1990 in Sydney.
There is hardly anything to differentiate between the two sides. England is placed fourth in the world rankings while India is sixth.
After England, India will face China on June 5, followed by their last pool match against New Zealand on July 7.