This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The Indian women’s hockey team gave its fans much to rejoice about when they scooped up the bronze medal at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games – their third bronze at this multi-sport event after last winning it at the 2006 Doha Asiad. The Ritu Rani-led side rose to the occasion when it mattered, prevailing over higher ranked Japan 2-1 to pocket the bronze medal.
The Indian eves’ Asiad campaign also included a fighting 1-2 defeat to reigning champions China, where they nearly pulled off a respectable draw before being done in by a last minute goal. The Indian women’s team captain Ritu Rani, who recently quit her job with Railways, and joined Haryana Police, spoke about their exploits in Incheon and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q. How important is this bronze medal for Indian women’s hockey?
Q. Indian eves nearly pulled off a surprise draw over defending champions China and but were done in by a 59th minute goal.
Yeah, we missed a lot of chances against China and with a bit of luck going our way we could well have won that game. Our girls got plenty of confidence from that game as China have been the Asian Games champions for two consecutive editions (2006 and 2010).
Q. You have been captaining the Indian women’s team since June 2011 and entirely during Neil Hawgood’s stint as national coach. This bronze feat must be your biggest moment.
It has to be my biggest moment as the national team captain. I will cherish this for a long, long time.
Q. When you look at teams like Asian powerhouses like China and Korea, where do you think India lag behind?
I don’t think we are inferior to them in anyway. Skill-wise we are better than them, but just that they have the speed to unsettle us. In term of pace these teams enjoy an edge over us.
Q. There is a lot of talk about the fitness levels of the Indian women’s team. Do you think that is an area where we are getting caught out against formidable sides?
If you have asked this question three or four years back, I would have agreed with you but not now. We are a fit side and our girls can hold their own against any side. Gone are those days when our players will be outpaced in possession because of fitness issues.
The girls have really worked hard on their fitness levels and it is showing in the results. We won the bronze at the 2013 Asia Cup in Ipoh and at this Inchen Asiad, which is a fair indication that women’s hockey is looking up in the country.
Q. Drag-flicker Jaspreet Kaur has been the real find of the Incheon Asian Games. Your thoughts.
She is a talented fullback who packs a punch with her drag-flicks. Jaspreet puts a lot of effort in her drag-flicks and the results are showing. She has returned to the side after a long injury lay-off and I’m really happy for them. At the moment she is the lone drag-flicker we have in the side and we need to groom few more for the future. We trying out Deep Grace Ekka for this role, let’s see how it works out.
Q. Railways have been giving jobs to women hockey players in a big way – as many twelve players of the current side are employed with them. Do you think the time has come for others to offer jobs to women players?
A large chunk of the national team is employed with Railways, but it’s not fair to bank only on Railways to give jobs to women hockey players. Entities like IOC, BPCL, ONGC as well as banks among others must come forward to offer jobs or else no youngster will be encouraged to take up women’s hockey. There is no doubt that they is a pressing need for more jobs for women hockey players.
Q. Men’s Hero Hockey India League How has been quite a success. How about a women’s version of the same?
A women’s Hockey India League will be a big thing for us. Not just more money will come into women’s hockey, the supply line to the national side will be strengthened as players from across the country will participate and a lot of hidden talents will come to the fore.
Q. What other international events are lined up in the coming months?
We have the Hockey World League in March 2015 and before that I’m not sure what other events are planned.
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