The popularity of women athletes is on the rise and some of Indiaâs very own ladies are leading the movement from the front. Not more than 11 days ago, the Indian womenâs cricket team became a part of a historic day when 86,174 cricket fans visited the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch the final of the ICC Womenâs T20 World Cup between the Women in Blue and the Aussies.
What. A. Day. pic.twitter.com/bJrAM2trQtâ ICC (@ICC) March 17, 2020
There is another womenâs team around the block that has been very impressive at the international level and is making the country proud - the Indian womenâs hockey team.
Recently, the squad has been in excellent form, thanks to the âchange in attitudeâ that has come about in the locker room according to striker Navneet Kaur.
India off to a flying start at the Hockey Women's Asian Champion Trophy with a convincing 4-1 win over Japan, courtesy a hat trick by Navneet Kaur.
Kaur, who has been one of the most significant members of the team and a primary reason behind the growth of womenâs hockey in the country in the recent days, believes that this has happened to the team because of gaining self confidence and moving away from fear under the leadership of Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.
"Earlier, we feared playing against top teams like Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. We lacked that match-winning confidence and this was perhaps why many teams even considered us as underdogs," explained Kaur in a Hockey India press release.November 3, 2019
But over the last two years in particular, there has been a major shift in how the team prepares against a tough opponent. "Apart from winning important matches, I think there are a lot of other factors that have contributed to this change and one of them being Chief Coach Sjoerd's style of play. He likes aggression, he has instilled that belief in us that we are a team that can play with good speed in our attack," she said.
"The Chief Coach always tells us it's not over until the last whistle. Even during the half-time of the Olympic Qualifiers, he said we will begin the third quarter as though the scores are 0-0. We have been instilled with that fighting spirit," she explained.
Â© Twitter/Sjoerd Marijne
Another reason that has added to the team trusting in themselves is the significant improvement in their fitness.
"I also believe our improvement in fitness has been another big factor. Every girl (including new comers) is aware of the importance of fitness, recovery and diet. Apart from this, small things like support staff encouraging us to improve internal communication, point out openly in meetings about what we can do differently in training sessions etc, these things make us feel bold and confident," added Kaur who scored a total of 10 goals in 2019.
The team is grouped in Pool A for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games where they will play against top ranked teams like the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland apart from South Africa.
Indian women hockey player Lalremsiami's father expired when India was to play a crucial semifinal at Hiroshima that would determine if India's Olympics dream would be alive. She told coach, 'I want to make my father proud. I want to stay, play and make sure India qualifiesð®ð³ pic.twitter.com/V9tlE84z4Kâ Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) June 23, 2019
"We will play our first match against the Netherlands at the Olympics and quite frankly, we are really excited to play against them because we have not faced them in the past. We don't fear playing against these teams and are focused on preparing well. We are currently undergoing a week-long recovery which involves light gym session, stretching and swimming pool recovery. Resting well is also emphasised before we resume intense training from next week," she added.
Having said that, the road to the Tokyo Olympics has approached a rather unique impasse. Due to the ongoing coronavirus scare, qualifying rounds for multiple sports have been called off, but more importantly, it continues to be unclear whether or not the quadrennial tournament will even happen.
Nonetheless, it is great to watch the womenâs hockey team finally get all the recognition they deserve and make the most out of it.