The Indian women’s hockey team’s fitness and skills will be tested during their tour of Germany and will be valuable match practice in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, said captain Rani Rampal. The team is set to face world No.3 Germany in four matches starting on Saturday.
This is India’s second assignment since their tour of Argentina that ended earlier this month. “It is going to be a totally different experience than the Argentina tour. From our skills to fitness level, everything will be tested, and that’s what we as a team want,” said Rani.
“It will be a challenging tour for us, considering we will be playing back-to-back matches, but I feel we are up for any kind of challenges thrown at us. To be honest, there’s no extra pressure as such. Our priority, for now, is to get into that competitive frame of mind. The experience of playing against a top team like Germany will really add value to our preparations for the Olympic Games,” Rani, 26, added.
The team had returned from their tour of Argentina on February 4 and they reached Germany on February 23.
“Argentina tour helped us gain confidence, and we are really boosted for our next assignment. These back-to-back tours in a short span are like golden opportunities for us. We are just months away from the Tokyo Olympics, and these matches against top teams will help us in finding loopholes and gain momentum before the Games,” said Rani.
India play back to back matches against Germany on Saturday and Sunday. After a day’s break, the two sides face each other in consecutive games again on March 2 and 3.
2nd T20I: Rain threat looms large over India v Australia clash in Nagpur
Friday’s second T20I match between India and Australia at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Jamtha is likely to be impacted with rains that lashed the city overnight and early morning.
With Nagpur under a wet spell for the last few days, the bosses at the Vidarbha Cricket Association are spending their days in trepidation as rain is predicted for the match day too. The match tickets at the 45,000-capacity stadium is already sold out and they will have to refund the buyers in case the match does not go ahead.
Both the teams landed in Orange City on Wednesday afternoon and were greeted by heavy rain in the evening and the intervening night. There were showers early on Thursday morning and though the rain has abated around 10 am, heavy cloud cover over the city means, there is always a threat of more rain.
In such conditions, the sun did not bother to even take a peek at the City, thus further reducing the chances of the ground getting dry on Thursday itself.
The morning spell of rain forced both Australia and India to cancel their scheduled practice session in the afternoon and evening. The players did not travel to the stadium, engaging in a light gym session at the team hotel.
The groundsmen removed the covers around noon to check but with the threat of a drizzle looming, put them back soon. According to VCA officials, they are running the super sopper and ensuring there no leakage, hoping that there is no further rain on Thursday and Friday.
Nagpur is hosting its first international match in three years and there is lot of enthusiasm among fans, who purchased the tickets online within a few minutes. Even then the telephone at the VCA’s oid stadium in the City is ringing off the hook with people still enquiring whether tickets were available offline.
The stadium is more than 20km far from the City and the VCA is facing some lots of issues regarding providing parking spaces for the spectators that take their own vehicles.
Focusing on situational awareness for better ball control: Hockey forward Navneet
Indian women’s hockey team forward Navneet Kaur is looking to improve her “situational awareness” in order to control the ball better ahead of a busy season, which also includes the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China next year.
Navneet said the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games was a historical campaign for her side as they clinched bronze after a 16-year drought. The 26-year-old, who was instrumental in the attack during the memorable campaign, added she is keen to see herself playing a bigger role in the squad moving forward.
“I need to improve my situational awareness, so that I get better at controlling the ball and in turn get better at controlling the tempo of the game, because then I can play at my pace and choose moments in the game to either slow the tempo down or raise it according to the situation,” said Navneet on Monday.
Speaking about the CWG campaign, she said, “The medal brought us great joy, even though our team was feeling a little down after the loss in the semifinal. It was special to see everyone in the squad motivating each other to concentrate on the bronze-medal game and you could feel the togetherness of the squad as we got laser focused for the bronze-medal tie. That moment was really surreal, especially for me.”
Navneet also said the squad is looking at better team coordination as major events beckon.
“We are working on improving our team coordination. We are also working on our finishing as a squad so that we are extremely clinical when the chances come our way which was the only area, we lacked in at the World Cup and CWG 2022. As a squad we have identified these areas and have already started working on improving them so that we are ready before the next tournament comes around.”
Speaking about the upcoming tournaments and new faces in the side, she said, “The team’s performances have been great recently. Now we are fully focused on the upcoming competitions and I am sure we will perform in the same unrelenting manner. The young players have settled into the team really well and their integration in the squad is going smoothly, the best part of which is that young players are getting so many opportunities in international competitions which will help them improve drastically in very little time, which I feel we should continue doing because it it future proofs helps our young players in the team settle and gain much needed competitive experience at the highest level.
“As a senior player now, I look to help the youngsters with everything and anything on and off the field. We talk freely off the field and encourage open discussions and there is no such obligation of ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ players,” Navneet added.
National Games will set the stage for hosting international sports in Gujarat: Dhanraj Pillay
One of the best hockey players ever produced by the country, Dhanraj Pillay, who was picked for the national camp after excelling in the 1987 National Games in Kerala, says the 36th edition of the Games is a perfect platform for India’s promising sportspersons to graduate to the international level.
Pillay made his India debut two years later in 1989 and went on to dazzle the world with his dribbling skills and speed for 15 years, becoming the only player to play in four Olympics, four World Cups, four Champion Trophies editions and four Asian Games.
Pillay hopes that the 36th National Games in Gujarat, from September 29 to October 12, will similarly throw up fresh talents who will then go on to wear the tricolor with distinction.
“I was one of the many players picked up for the India camp after the Kerala National Games, which is the most important championship in Indian sport. I am happy the event is making its comeback after seven years and hope the national selectors will be present to pick new talents for the national camp,” the 54-year-old former India spearhead who has scored around 170 goals in his 339 appearances for the ‘men in light blue’, was quoted as saying by the organisers.
Pillay also highlighted the sporting benefits that would accrue to the people of Gujarat as a result of the infrastructure built to host the National Games, based on his own experience of what the 1994 edition did to his home city, Pune.
“Pune has become a sports city after the birth of the Balewadi Sports Complex, which was built to host the 1994 National Games,” said Pillay, who is coming up with a national sports academy in Bengaluru.
“It gave the city a different look and the same venue went on to host several international events over the years, providing a fillip to various sports in the region.”
Pillay hoped the infrastructure for the 2022 edition, which he felt was up to international standards, would inspire many youngsters to take to sports in Gujarat.
He also expressed optimism that the facilities would be productively ulitised thereafter, and Gujarat would promote the venues (the Games will be staged in six cities across the state) and host many international events in the future.
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