FIH Pro League: Three defeats in three for Indian women’s hockey team as their poor run continues


Before the FIH Hockey Pro League home leg started, India coach Janneke Schopman wanted to see whether, against some of the best teams in the world, her side can still show they can compete. But carrying on from the heartbreak in Ranchi – where India fell short of qualifying for the Paris Olympics – their Pro League campaign has been off to a disappointing start as they suffered their third straight defeat on Wednesday.

Australia were the latest to hand India a defeat as they prevailed 3-0 against Savita Punia and Co in Bhubaneshwar to keep India rooted close to the bottom of the table on their return to the multi-nation tournament. A 1-3 loss against the Netherlands – the absolute powerhouses in women’s hockey, currently holding all the major titles – is nothing to be ashamed of but on either side of it, there were worrying performances.

Coming so close to the reversal in Ranchi, the Pro League campaign was always going to be tricky for Schopman: firstly to pick up a squad reeling from the hurt, secondly to effect enough changes to make a difference against quality sides who are all heading for Paris. The second aspect has meant that, despite some fresh additions to the squad, the script has panned out largely similar to what we saw unfold at the Olympic Qualifiers.

India struggled to convert chances against Japan in the match that mattered the most, trailing to an early goal and then fruitlessly attacking for the majority of the match. The Penalty Corner conversion has been a concern area for a while, and despite the return of Gurjit Kaur, it remains an issue in Odisha. Against Australia, India failed to score from 5 penalty corners. In fact, their two goals so far in the tournament – from Vandana Katariya against China and Navneet Kaur against Netherlands – have been from open play.

On the other side, India have conceded 50 per cent of their goals from PC situations, with the sensational Yibbi Jansen showing twice in the match against the Netherlands how important a top goalscorer from these set-pieces can be. It’s an area Schopman has said India must address in the big picture, but in the here and now, winning PCs doesn’t feel like chances for the side to get on the scoreboard. Indeed, from one of the PCs that India won against Australia, they were left so open at the back that the Hockeyroos nearly scored.

The defeat against Australia perhaps will sting the most because – despite being World No. 2 – Australia haven’t exactly played at their best so far. They lost 0-3 against China and even against India, were well below their best and ill-discipline saw them play most of the finishing stages with a player short. But when it mattered, they were clinical in scoring, aided by India’s mistakes in defence… and right now, being clinical, putting away chances when they create is where India are struggling the most.

Up next, is a match against the USA, who have already caused heartburn for this Indian side, handing them a damaging defeat in Ranchi not too long ago. As the Pro League campaign starts to feel heavy on this team, a win is desperately needed as they look to end a run of 5 straight defeats at home.

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