Much has changed in the last year. Sjoerd Marijne made way for Janneke Schopman as the head coach. Wayne Lombard quit as the scientific advisor. The face of the team and skipper Rani Rampal has been sidelined – battling injuries – which has seen goalkeeper Savita Punia assume leadership role.
In their first major outing after the Tokyo Games – the World Cup – the team finished a disappointing ninth recently. They were let down by lack of on-field conversion of opportunities and poor success rate in penalty corners. In the six matches they played, India earned 31 penalty corners and converted a mere three.
Going into the Commonwealth Games, beginning in Birmingham on July 28, this will be a major cause for concern. India, who will open their campaign against Ghana on July 29, touched down in Nottingham on Sunday for the final leg of their preparations.
Admitting the team fell short at the World Cup, head coach Schopman said, “In terms of outcome, our performance was not good enough.”
On the lack of execution during penalty corners, the former Netherlands defender said, “We created a lot of penalty corners which was good, but our execution failed. In terms of injection we struggled with the pitch. It was a different pitch from what we train on and I don’t think we adapted well. Going forward, it has to be about perfecting our execution and that is something we need to focus on over the next few days before the Commonwealth Games.”
But Schopman is confident the team will regroup in time for the CWG. “We have come stronger together. As a coach, it is just about accepting that you don’t always get what you want. The girls want to work hard and go again, and I know they can. We need to train differently and execute better,” she added.
Away from the game, one of the key aspects that the players are dealing with individually is handling pressure.
“When you come into a tournament having trained hard you don’t know what pressure does to you individually. As a team we dealt with it pretty well. Having said that, there is pressure individually. If the performance you have envisioned before the start of a tournament does not pan out the way you want it then the pressure builds. Our players did a good job of figuring out and are working on it,” pointed out the 45-year-old.
One of the biggest challenges for competitors at the CWG will be the weather. A heat wave has engulfed much of Europe and the temperature is expected to soar in the coming days.
But Schopman is clear that the team will not be unduly perturbed by circumstances which are beyond its control. “It is what it is but we are used to the heat since we’ve played in Bhubaneswar where the heat can get worse. We will make the best of the circumstances whatever they may be.”
India are clubbed in Pool A along with England, Canada, Wales and Ghana.