BENGALURU: The head coach of the women’s national team, Sjoerd Marijne always keeps a close watch on players during matches and also training sessions at the Sports Authority of India in Bengaluru. He scans his eyes all over the blue turf, keeping an eye on their body language — their attitude, determination and how much they have improved of late. All these factors will come under consideration before the final squad for Tokyo Olympics is announced.
It also means that the next few months will be extremely important with India set to fly to New Zealand next week. The squad for that was announced on Tuesday. India will also travel to China for a few matches in March before they feature in the Asian Champions Trophy in June.
In the lead-up to the Olympics, they are not playing any of the world’s top four. India’s highest-ranked opponent over the next six months will be World No 5 England, against whom, they will play one game during the New Zealand tour.
“Unfortunately, we do not play the western countries and other big teams in our preparation. But that is how it is. We would have loved to play against teams like the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina and Australia, everyone ranked higher than us. We can learn from playing those matches and see what we need to improve,” said Marijne.
But it doesn’t mean the players can afford to take their foot off the pedal. They have a chance to gain momentum ahead of the Olympics and prove how fit they have become. Under Marijne, the team has improved their fitness, which can be seen from their pressing.
They will have to keep on improving these aspects before they play the Netherlands, their first game at the Olympics. “They can never hold back and can never have it easy on the pitch because they will always have to perform. That is the only way to raise the benchmark higher and higher,” said Marijne, who wants his players to be on top of their game.
“It’s about your performance during these months. I want to take those players (to Tokyo), who have shown improvement in every training session, tour and match. Those players, who show form, will go to Tokyo. I will watch all training sessions very closely. We do not have too many matches, so every match and session is very important for everyone now.”
No Nikki for NZ tour
Nikki Pradhan, who was part of the Olympic qualifiers against USA, has been excluded from the New Zealand tour. “She is not in the team. It is all about performance. She needs to be better to get into the team,” Marijne said. They have announced a 20-member squad for the tour.
Squad: Rani Rampal (c), Savita, Rajini Etimarpu, Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar, Salima Tete, Sushila Chanu, Nisha, Namita Toppo, Udita, Monika, Lilima Minz, Neha, Sonika, Sharmila, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Vandana Katariya, Navjot Kaur.