CHENNAI: God's timing is always right, reads one of India hockey women's team players' WhatsApp profile picture. Though it may or may not be alluding to the nation's recent coach swapping (Harendra Singh became the men's team coach and Sjoerd Marijne returned to the women's team), the contingent is mentally prepared to accept whatever comes its way.
The fifth Asian Champions Trophy, which begins on Sunday in Donghae City (South Korea), will be the first tournament where the Dutchman will start his second stint as the women's team coach.On the eve of the tournament, though the defending champions sounded upbeat, they also felt that this swap has happened at the wrong time. Post their South Korea sojourn, the team will play two important tournaments: World Cup in July, and Asian Games in August. The mood in the camp is very positive, one of the players told Express from South Korea. But the appointment of the new coach shouldn't have happened at this crucial juncture.
But nothing is in our hands. Hockey India and others take a call. When we came to know about it, we were off for a day. We can't control these decisions. I don't think this will have any impact on our players, nor change our target of winning matches. This tournament, unlike other usual events, will not only test the skills that the players possess, but also their mental strength. Though they wished that Harendra had stayed longer — especially after a successful Asia Cup campaign last November — they were keen to triumph at this event, irrespective of who their coach is.
They were are also glad that both coaches have a similar style of play. We are happy to welcome Marijne as our coach. Obviously a new coach would have taken more time to adapt, and that might have affected our performance. It's good that his style matches ours. Like Harendra sir, he wants us to play an attacking style of hockey. We are on the same page. With skipper Rani Rampal rested for the tournament along with forward Poonam Rani and defender Sushila Chanu, experienced forward Sunit Lakra will lead the side. Finishing fourth at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, the team had a lot of positives to take back.
Two pertinent ones were defeating Olympic champions England, and conceding a solitary goal against Australia. Our confidence has increased after CWG. Though we have to improve a lot in defence, we executed attacking hockey, as we had planned. With a tour to Spain, a World Cup and an Asian Games on the cards, it's time to rectify our mistakes. This will be the ideal tournament.