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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Women’s Hockey World Cup: India takes two steps forward and one step back

With just 39 seconds to go in the third quarter, Vandana Katariya remained to the left of the goal. She would make a well-aimed deflection, throwing herself into an equalizing goal and China would be neutralized 1-1 in the Women’s Hockey World Pro League pool game in the Netherlands. “Finally the Indian corner comes well”, the commentator exhaled of the last 5 penalty corner chances India won. Experts recall that Dutch coach from India, Janneke Schopman, has scored similar variations in her time as a player. But there was nervous resignation at the relief of the eventual 1-1 draw.

On both sides of China’s game, India won an impressive total of 31 PC odds. They converted 3. Coach Schopman’s stint was to witness India take two steps forward, one step back. Lots of scoring chances, but few converts.

Chasing New Zealand’s lead in a later match, and after Katariya and Lalremsiami scored a pair of impressive field goals, India’s designated Gurjit Kaur hit one to the bottom right corner, the ball passed over two pairs of feet from defenders and one leg from the Kiwi goalkeeper. The goal had the ability to stick a needle in, but it failed to mask the match’s low conversion rate: 1 in 15.

Against Spain, the Indian CP takers lacked intensity, failing to convert any of the 4 chances. And when England held India for another draw – after yet another Katariya snatching a rebound – some tame injections as the game progressed saw opposing rushers gain an extra split second to position themselves to deflect shots. The English game had a conversion of 1 in 7 PC attempts.

Hw The low conversion rate, also considering the field goals weren’t exactly raining – may have cost India a straight spot in the quarters, and in the coming months, with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, could prove crucial. (Hockey India)

Beijing Olympics gold medalist Schopman (beating China in the finals, by chance), who loves a good bag of variations when taking PCs, will be happy at the same time that Indian women are taking the ball fast and meaningfully to the D with rhythm and intensity. But the conversions – often routine pieces – lack venom and precision, even if one assumes that complex variations will take time to develop. The low conversion rate, also considering the field goals weren’t exactly raining – may have cost India a straight spot in the quarters, and in the coming months, with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, could prove crucial.

Too many expectations from Gurjit

Gurjit, the lady from India assigned to the big role, who came to the fore against the US in the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers, bears most of the responsibility for achieving these goals for India. At least until Monika Malik shows up. She became a sensation also due to the rarity of drag flickers in India.

If a team’s evolution phases existed, the India women’s team is where the men’s team was before the 2012 Games, and when Sandeep Singh carried the mantle to do the PC job. Most teams find themselves at this stage of team development – ​​when a dearth of fluid field goals needs to be rewarded with a glut of CP opportunities.

That India is gaining a lot more CPs – running not just down the flanks but also straight into the center of the field – and getting into D with speed and finding foot is amply clear. Compared to the Tokyo Olympics campaign, the CP count of won odds is definitely positive. But as India looks to consolidate its 4th place result and seize the momentum, the PC conversion becomes singularly important as a statistic and a spark plug.

Gurjit and Deep Grace Ekka are a formidable set-piece duo, their defensive duties will need constant updates. Giving rushers extra milliseconds because hits aren’t always focusing is another issue. So are Gurjit’s slightly predictable straight, low (knee- or waist-high) movements and the PC’s jerk angles. A little too comfortable in height, Gurjit will need more than his stash along the ground or just above – efforts. She has a nice deceptive deflection of the bat that doesn’t reveal that the ball is going to pierce the near right corner. But she’ll need more variations – and maybe Katariya diving in, enjoying more rebounds or reorienting deflections.

Defensive lapses – as well as groans used to be around Sandeep Singh and watching the ball – also require keeper Savita to be forced into double and triple saves. But teams like England, New Zealand and Australia also have the ability to run just as hard in the final quarter, making it doubly difficult for players like Gurjit. An increase in your PC conversion count can help you gain confidence in the defense.

Wh The PC conversion on the side remains both good news and bad news. Lots of chances, less dancing towards the goal. (Hockey India)

There’s a lot of work left

The upcoming FIH Pro League season will not see India failing to stay in the standings, and that would mean fewer high-profile matches. This implies fewer opportunities to test PC progress, even as the behind-the-scenes work on dragflicks will no doubt continue. The CWG may well be one of the last test assignments for a long time.

There aren’t many flashers immediately visible passing through the junior ranks. And India’s forwards aren’t exactly setting the blue turf on fire, lacking a little composure at the crunch and closer to goal. Katariya is on the rise these days and Lalremsiami has the poaching chops. But mere field goals will not diminish the opponents’ advantage.

Problems are compounded by the continued absence of Rani Rampal, India’s creative force for the past decade, who could create chances out of thin air and prepare them for his teammates. India will need to make the important choices about whether Rani – even in short 30-minute periods – can be employed to conjure up those odds.

The PC conversion on the side remains both good news and bad news. Lots of chances, less dancing towards the goal.

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