The FIH Pro League campaign of the Indian women’s hockey team has been nothing short of outstanding. For a side that was making their Pro League debut as one of the replacement sides, it was seen as an opportunity for the Indian hockey eves to build on their fourth-place finish at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. And after playing 16 games, the Indian women’s hockey team have only enhanced their reputation as a team to watch out for. One is not trying to paint a near-perfect picture of Indian women’s hockey – the girls have been guilty of inconsistency as well as messing up scoring opportunities, mostly in the early part of the Pro League but the way they really turned on the style in the business end of the league against formidable Argentina and USA gave us a feeling that this team was growing in stature and can beat any side on their day.
The manner in which Savita Punia-led Indian oufit stressed out a top side like Argentina and made the South Americans really work hard in 3-3 draw and a shootout win in the first leg and a narrow 2-3 loss in the second leg drove home one point – this team does not fear losing. Even against a side like USA that have troubled India a lot in the past, the Blueskirts proved far too superior in the Pro League. With a creditable 3rd place finish on their Pro League debut, Indan eves must be one of the strong contenders for the upcoming World Cup alongside Netherlands, Argentina, Australia and Great Britain.
The Indian deep defence has held up well in the Pro League – even Deep Grace Ekka – considered one of the weaklings in the side – seems to have discovered some form scoring off shorties as well as setting up a fine goal for Lalremsiami against Argentina. Gurjit Kaur’s form with drag-flicks would be heartening news for India and she alongside Nikki Pradhan and Udita would have to keep defence neat and tidy at the World Cup.
Salima Tete has been a revelation in the Pro League – the good thing is she can play an effective role in any position – she brings so much to the Indian team be it first-rushing duties in penalty corners, controlling the midfield or overlapping upfront. Neha Goyal continues to impress while experienced Sushila Chanu is a vital cog in the midfield. Navjot Kaur is another experienced campaigner but she needs to do much more to justify her place in the side. The likes of Monica Malik, Sonika Tandi and Jyoti have really risen to the occasion and offering a lot of value to this Indian side.
The Indian forwardline is unlikely to miss injury-prone Rani Rampal since the team have done well even in her absence in the Pro League and the Asia Cup. Vastly experienced Vandana Katariya, rapildy improving Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi and Sangita Kumari would look to keep the opposition defence under pressure and address the goal-scoring needs of the team. The Janneka Schopman-coached Indian hockey eves have the ammunition to improve on her best ever performance of finshing fourth at the inaugural 1974 World Cup in France.