Sport is all about highs and lows. The key to bouncing back is to tip the balance in your favour, put the failure behind you and look ahead.
This will be the Indian women’s hockey team’s mantra as they begin their quest for a Commonwealth Games medal on Friday. After the fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics and the third-position in the FIH Pro League came the disappointment of the ninth place at the World Cup recently.
For a team which was on a high for a year, the World Cup performance was a rude shock but Savita and Co. will not allow that debacle to weigh them down as they take on Ghana in their opener.

While the core team from Tokyo, barring Rani Rampal, remains the same, what hurt India at the World Cup were individual performances which were not up to scratch.
Among the grey areas were the lack of penalty corner conversions and translation of circle penetrations into goals. Dragflick ace Gurjit Kaur converted just one goal and same was the case of her fellow dragflicker Deep Grace Ekka, who was solid in defence but fell short in goal-scoring. If the duo had a better success rate, India could have well won more than one match in the competition.
While Vandana Katariya continued to be the livewire of the forwardline, the poor run of Navneet Kaur and Sharmila Devi ensured they didn’t play as a cohesive unit. In the build-up to the Games, chief coach Janneke Schopman said the team has addressed the shortcomings. Led by goalkeeper Savita, the anchor and saviour, India are in with a good chance of a podium finish. While the first two matches – against Ghana (world No. 30) and Wales (24) – shouldn’t be daunting for India, the real challenge begins when they take on England on August 2, followed by Canada. With the top-two teams qualifying for the semifinals, the margin for error is minimum.

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“We are well-prepared. In the little time that we had after the World Cup, we have worked on our weaknesses and built on our strengths. The results did not go in our favour at the World Cup, but we fought hard, did not give up and were not found wanting in intent. We will carry forward those qualities and give our best,” Savita said.
After the gold at the 2002 Manchester Games, followed by silver in Melbourne four years later, India haven’t won a medal in three editions thereafter.

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By Dipak

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