CHENNAI: AT the Women’s World League Semifinal in Johannesburg in July, the Indian team finished in eighth place. In a group with Argentina and USA, not many expected them to top it but going down to Ireland and, to a lesser extent Japan, in the classification matches was disappointing, to say the least. At the recently held Asia Cup in Japan, India won the entire thing — beating three higher-ranked opponents in the process. It’s obvious that something changed. What?
India’s High-Performance Director (HPD), David John, is clear as to what that catalyst for change was.
“We left seven players back home after the World League Semifinal,” he tells Express. “On our next tour (a European tour to Belgium and Netherlands), they didn’t come. We replaced them with younger players. I think it sent a really good message to some of the girls that stayed back.”
It’s an age-old carrot and stick approach but John and Co were vindicated. Some of the players took it on the chin and put in the hard yards in training. “I will use Navjot Kaur as a good example. She didn’t come to Europe and let’s say ‘she learnt a lesson’. She worked really hard in training to get back into the team.
In the Asia Cup, she scored five goals. Significant improvements like that made a huge difference.”
While the team stuck to the same tactics they deployed in Belgium and The Netherlands, John was impressed with the number of goals the team scored. He also credited new coach Harendra Singh’s role in the win. “Gameplay-wise, there wasn’t a lot of change,” he said. “Harendra spent a lot in knowing the girls on an individual level and that will put India in good stead in the months ahead.” On the upcoming World League Final for the men’s team, he expects a run to the semifinals. “I think the semifinal (is the expectation),” he said. “The competition is significantly tougher than in the Asia Cup,” he pointed out.
India to play NZ in Jan
The men’s team will take part in a short bilateral series at New Zealand from January 14. After the tournament, the men will go on a break before assembling for a short camp from January 4. After that, the team will head to New Zealand. On the recruitment front, the men’s team are still on the lookout for an analytical coach as well as a strength and conditioning coach. But John was hopeful that both those roles would be filled before the team’s first training session in 2018. After playing the Black Sticks, the team is scheduled to play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup before jetting out to take part in the Commonwealth Games in April.