It’s not often that an Indian women’s hockey team enters a tournament with a better chance of a podium finish than their male counterparts. But such is their legacy at the Commonwealth Games that despite their indifferent form in the last year or so, the Neil Hawgood-coached side are India’s best bet for a medal at Glasgow.
After the high of winning the bronze medal at the junior World Cup last year, the team’s fortunes have gone downhill. At the Champions Challenge tournament, which was played in Glasgow in April-May, India were the wooden-spooners, finishing at the bottom of the eight-team event.
Hawgood, though, isn’t panicking, insisting that the team is in transition. India might be languishing at the 13th position in the world but the Australian feels his wards now can well and truly compete with teams ranked 5-8th.
India have fielded a relatively young side for the CWG with as many 12 junior players in the squad. The team led by Ritu Rani will, however, miss the services of the experienced Chanchan Devi and Binita Lakra, both of whom are injured.
India enter the CWG in a positive frame of mind, whitewashing Malaysia in a six-test away series. “The Malaysia series gave the girls a chance to play test matches without any pressure. The series gave them an opportunity to express themselves and try out new things. In the end, the results lifted our confidence tremendously,” Hawgood said.
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Aiming for a top-four finish at Glasgow, Hawgood said the team is using the CWG as a part of the build-up for September’s Asian Games. “The CWG is part of our preparation for the Asian Games just like the Champions Challenge and the Malaysia tour. We are aiming to play consistent hockey leading to the Asian Games. The CWG will provide us with a chance to test ourselves against some big teams,” he said.