After a long gap of 13 years India won the Women’s Asian Cup held in Japan. Indian women hockey captain Rani Rampal continues to be busy with local tournaments as she feels that “You can’t sit and celebrate for long if you want to be a winner”. In an exclusive interview to Organiser Correspondent Nishant Kr Azad, Rani talked about the winning moments and the challenges ahead. Excerpts:
Many congratulations for winning the Asia Cup in Hockey. Being captain of the team, how do you feel to achieve this victory?
It was a great moment for us and victory was really special. We all played really well. We are extremely happy to win the Asia Cup. Last time we won it in 2004 and after a long gap of 13 years we bagged it again. The most important thing about this win is that the team qualified for the World Cup scheduled in 2018 on merit and that in itself is a big thing.
In recent times we did not perform up to the expectations, many a times, we played well but failed to convert that game into victory and sometimes we failed to play to our potential. We desperately needed a big victory at the international level to boost the morale of the team.
What was going in your mind when you went for penalty shootout in the finals?
Naturally it was a tense moment but I was confident about myself that I am going to make it.
How do you see the role of Harendra Singh as a coach in this victory?
Joining of Harendra sir as a coach was a major boost in our confidence. He is a reputed coach, so we knew that his training would benefit us enormously. His coaching to the junior men's hockey team was critical in winning the World Cup last year, so we as a team were confident of repeating the same under him. His strategy for all games worked well. Our other coaches and support staff also played an important role in this victory.
Our former coaches also worked hard and it is the hard work of theirs that made us achieve this success.
Any special tips by him before the final.
He just told us to stay cool, ‘be focused and give your best’ was his mantra. He wanted us to execute the plan meticulously. There was intent and experience in his words. We were inspired by that immensely.
In 2018, India will participate in three major events—CWG, Asian Games and lastly the World Cup. How do you see the team preparations especially after winning the Asia Cup?
So far our preparations are good and we are getting good exposure. I am sure in the coming days we will work harder to give our best in the coming tournaments. 2018 is very important year for us and the game. Naturally, after winning the Asia Cup, people’s expectations are very high from the team. That will inspire and motivate us to perform well and bring more glory for the nation.
For us, it is necessary to carry the momentum and the confidence with which we played in the Asia Cup.
Which are the areas you feel the need for improvement?
We don’t want to take lot of pressure because frankly, it does not help. There is always a scope for betterment. There is a plenty of hard work to be done. We need to work on some areas, especially on defence and be mentally and physically strong.
The present team includes both young and experienced players. How do you manage the balance as a captain?
You have to listen to everyone and take everyone equally. In all decisions you have to take players in confidence. We have a good balanced team.
You have continuously been fighting with injuries. This must be frustrating. Have you fully recovered now?
Injuries are a part of life but I am fully fit now.
Women athletes are consistently performing well at the international level and bringing laurels to the country. Your comment.
It’s good that women are getting chances and coming forward, giving their best to bring laurels to our nation. Also the most important thing is the mindset of people is changing towards women athletes. Recently, after winning Asia cup, social media was flooded with wishes to our team which is a positive indicator.
How do you see your journey as a player?
It’s really an amazing journey with lots of ups and downs. You always feel proud when you play for your country and win medals.