Indian Women’s Team Need to Build on Olympics Success: Former Captain Ritu Rani

Indian’s women hockey is at an all-time high after its massive 4 th place finish at the
Tokyo Olympics. Probably a top-6 finish at the Olympics would have been enough
to keep our hockey buffs happy and contented. But the Blueskirts raised their
performance bar to unprecedented levels and made their maiden Olympic semifinal
appearance, before settling for a 4 th place after losing narrowly to Great Britain 3-4
in the bronze medal play-off tie.
The manner in which the Indian women’s hockey team had clawed their way back
after three listless defeats against the Netherlands, Germany, and Great Britain
speaks volumes about the tenacity and self-belief of our girls. Former Indian captain
and midfielder Ritu Rani believes the 4 th place finish at the Tokyo Olympics was just
what the doctor ordered for Indian women’s hockey. “It’s a big thing for the future
of Indian women hockey. We had qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after a gap of
36 years and within four years to come so close to a medal is a fantastic achievement
by our girls. A top-6 finish was perhaps a realistic expectation going into the Tokyo
Olympics but the girls made a proud with their fighting performance after losing the
first three matches,” quips Ritu, under whose captaincy the national team had
qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after pipping Japan 1-0 in a 5 th place play-off-
tie in the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinal Tourney at Antwerp, Belgium.

Ritu, who is the most capped Indian women hockey player with 265 internationals,
throws a perspective about how the Indian women’s team look a different side
whenever they score first. “Our girls look so convincing whenever we draw first
blood in a match. We tend to get demotivated or get stressed if we concede first.
Look at the games against Australia and Argentina, our girls were firmly in control
after scoring early and it is so unfortunate that they had to lose to Argentina after
their blockbuster win over much-fancied Australia.”

Ritu, who now works as an Income Tax Inspector, explains why meeting Australia
in the quarterfinals was a good thing for the Bluskirts. “Australia play the kind of
game we play – clean hockey while the likes of the Netherlands, Argentina, Spain,
etc engage in rough hockey. Having Australia as a quarterfinal opponent surely
helped our cause.”

The former national team captain feels that the national team could have gone
beyond the 4 th place finish at Tokyo. “I don’t want to take anything away from our
girls but I feel that the Indian forwardline could have done better. Rani Rampal is a
world-class forward, but going by the high standards she sets for herself, I think, she
had a quiet Olympics. Imagine her in full flow, who knows India could have sprung
more surprises.”

The adulation and love our women’s team have received after their Olympics
heroics are richly deserved but complacency should be the last thing on the minds of
the girls. “It’s easy to press the complacency button when you receive never-seen-
before recognition received from many quarters. The important thing is how do you
push yourself and build on the Olympic performance,” says the 29-year-old former
midfielder.

She concludes by making a mention of how the team can benefit with more drag-
flickers. “Gurjit Kaur was outstanding in Tokyo, scoring in key games. But with just
one drag-flicker and rolling substitution in place she can at best play for five minutes
at a time and opposition understand that. At Tokyo, we saw India earn PCs when
she was sitting on the dugout. Like our men’s team that have a battery of drag-
flickers, we need to groom more drag-flickers for our women’s team.”

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