CHENNAI: November 1, 2019. It's a sort of red-letter day for women's hockey in India. Against the US in a difficult first leg of a two-legged playoff to qualify for the Olympics, the goals came freely. It included a sensational four-goal burst in 11 second-half minutes.
That first-leg win (the hosts lost the second leg 1-4 but went through 6-5) was what ultimately took the women's side to the Olympics.
Since that day though, the goals have dried up. The women's team have scored only nine goals in 11 matches since that series against the US. This is the pattern that they will have to change if they are to advance deep into the Olympics.
Going by the 16-member squad that Hockey India has named, they do possess the necessary weapons to start converting chances into goals at Tokyo. There are as many as eight debutants — including one of the world's best dragflickers Gurjit Kaur and the exciting Lalremsiami.
Even though a captain will be named at a later stage, it's expected that Rani Rampal will keep the armband with her.
The composition of the squad is on expected lines, even if there are four players who are 23 or below. Out of the 16 players picked, 15 travelled to Germany for the recent tour (Vandana Katariya didn't make that trip).
That was reflected in Sjoerd Marijne saying that most of the members have developed well over the last 2-3 years.
"This team has worked very hard over and made progress," the coach said in a Hockey India press release.
"There's a good mix of youth and experience. We look forward to taking on the best. This is a team that has lot of potential and drive which we hope to channelise to our best performance yet."
In Tokyo, the women's team will open their campaign against the Netherlands before further games against Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa.
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Nikki Pradhan, Gurjit Kaur, Udita
Midfielders: Nisha, Neha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Navjot Kaur, Salima Tete
Forwards: Rani, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Vandana Katariya, Sharmila Devi