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Women’s hockey has the opportunity to make India’s presence felt against the top teams in the game

New Delhi |
Updated: November 7, 2017 1:50:16 am
Indian women's hockey team, Indian women's hockey team ranking, FIH, Asia Cup, sports news, hockey, Indian Express The perception that women’s hockey is a poor cousin of the men’s game hasn’t helped.

The euphoria that followed the women’s hockey team’s Asia Cup triumph was as heart-warming as it was understandable. It was their first major feat at the international level since they claimed the same silverware in 2004, two years after their biggest coup, the Commonwealth Games gold in Manchester. Between these triumphs, they sparkled only sporadically. Forget medals, qualifying for the Olympics or Commonwealth Games itself was celebrated as an achievement. There was a gnawing disparity between the best and the Indians, so much so that the joy of qualifying for big events dissipated as soon as the tournament unfolded. In Rio, for instance, their return to the Olympic fold after 36 years was marked by one heartbreak after the other and they eventually finished at the bottom of the pile. They didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup either, and finished ninth out of 12 teams in 2010.

The stasis was due to several reasons. The perception that women’s hockey is a poor cousin of the men’s game hasn’t helped. The players get none of the spotlight, awards or financial incentives that male players receive. Many leave the sport due to financial unviability or family pressure. The men’s team has been getting a lot of financial and infrastructural boost in the last decade, whereas the women have been largely neglected.

Now that there’s an opening, it is imperative that it be utilised optimally. Harendra Singh may have found himself in the position of the women’s coach in a roundabout manner, but now is the time to move away from ad-hocism. He has an enviable record in unearthing young talent in the junior ranks, and it is obvious that he has managed to get the girls playing at a high level. Victories over China (twice) and Japan at a big tournament, that too away from home, are nothing to be scoffed at. With the team securing a berth in next year’s World Cup, now is not the time to rest on one’s laurels but to make India’s presence felt against the top teams in the game.

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First published on: 07-11-2017 at 01:50:15 am
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