The start of a National Camp always gives a fresh perspective to our team goals and how we want to approach it. Coming into this National Camp after a fourth place finish in Gold Coast was somewhat a mixed feeling. There was resentment of losing out on a Medal but there was also a great amount of self-belief we could draw from the match against England in the Pool Stage. Beating the Olympic Champions was surreal.
It was the Semi Final loss to Australia at the XXI Commonwealth Games that hurt us the most. We knew it was our best chance to make the Medal Round. I recall many of us crying after that match. We were very upset. Back in the dressing room after that 0-1 loss to hosts, we discussed about all the possible ways in which we could have won that match – not having lost the video referral so early in the match, maybe we could have appealed against that goal which came off a high ball that seemed dangerous, maybe then the match would have gone into a shootout or maybe we should have made better use of the chances in the circle – there were just so many possibilities of how we could have swung that match around.
But discussing in detail about our CWG performance, it also throws light on how we lifted ourselves from a poor start against Wales. There is so much determination and confidence we can draw from our XXI Commonwealth Games performance where every match we played, we had learnt something new of our own capabilities. With that as our motivation, we made a fresh start to the camp which began on April 21 in SAI, Bengaluru.
Not giving us a lot of work load in the first week, Wayne Lombard (our Scientific Advisor) gave our body and mind the rest and recovery we needed from the CWG. While hockey was not as intense, it was a good time to have Bollywood’s acclaimed photographer Vikram Bawa and his team visit the camp to do a two-day photo shoot of the team. To have someone popular from Bollywood take keen interest in working with the Indian Hockey Teams I think is a big encouragement for both men and women’s team and we also enjoyed a lot during the shoot. It was a new experience for us and we hope we look fantastic is the pictures! (laughs)
Almost all of us in the team have been playing together for over three years or more. Some of us played together in the junior India squad too. We have grown from strength to strength and understand each other’s weakness as much as we know of each other’s plus points. Particularly over the last two years post the Rio Olympics we have progressed together as a team and enjoy a certain camaraderie. At this level, where most of us have over 100 International caps, any Coach who comes into the team would not start with basics. We already play in a certain structure and even when Harendra took over from Sjoerd last year, he didn’t change our structure. In fact, both Sjoerd and Harendra believe in attacking hockey. They are aggressive on the pitch and have shown tremendous confidence in women’s hockey. In fact, during the team’s recent psychology class we discussed the positive impact both Harendra and Sjoerd made to the team and we only want to carry that forward.
Every Coach who gets an opportunity to train the Indian team wants to give their best and ensure we give our best as players. Sjoerd spent six months with us and during this time, we had won all the three matches against Belgium Junior Men’s Team which helped us mentally, it gave the team a new sense of confidence. I personally believe, at this level, it is up to us as players to ensure we do well on the ground because the Coaches can’t play on behalf of us, they can only guide us. This is something both Harendra and Sjoerd repeated to us. Erik Wonink (Snalytical Coach), Wayne Lombard and Bharat Chetri have been working with us over the past one year and share a good working relationship with Sjoerd. We know how he takes classes, meetings, he doesn’t like lose marking in defence and Harendra was no different too so adapting to either was not difficult. As a parting gift, Harendra bought the team a Boom Box (speakers) which was a sweet gesture and we wished him the best for his new assignment.
We leave for the Asian Champions Trophy on May 8, and we will get about four good days of practice on the competition pitch before the tournament starts on May 13. The team will approach the Asian Champions Trophy as a litmus test ahead of the Asian Games. Senior players Rani, Poonam Rani and Sushila won’t be joining the team and we were told earlier ahead of CWG that some players will be rested considering a hectic season ahead with the World Cup and Asian Games. I was rested too for the Korea Tour. But not having them does not in any way change the team’s goal of doing well at the ACT. We want to progress match-by-match and see where we stand ahead of the all-important Asian Games in Jakarta.