Indian Women Hockey Team History, Ranking & Achievements 

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Indian Women Hockey Team History

Indian Women Hockey Team: Contrary to popular beliefs, Hockey was not developed in India. Games resembling modern day hockey can be traced back to many different cultures and civilizations ranging from Egypt to Ireland, Ancient Greece to Inner Mongolia. Hockey or field hockey as it is popularly called (owing to different types of hockey playing surfaces) was introduced in the Olympic games in 1908 for the men’s team and from 1928, India’s reign over the games in the Olympics started. Indian Men’s Hockey Team won 7 of the 8 Olympic gold medals from 1928 to 1964.

So, when the first Women’s Hockey World Cup began on 17th of March, 1974, in Mandelieu, France, it drew a lot of excitement, because India was among the 10 Teams participating in the tournament. India was drawn in pool A along with Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Mexico. But India’s start to the campaign was inauspicious because, on the very first game, they were defeated by Belgium, by a 2-0 scoreline. Not to be let down, the spirited Indian Women began a fabulous fight back in their next games.

India defeated Mexico, putting in 3 goals and conceding none. Then they demolished Spain 4-1 and in the final group game, overcame the Netherlands by a 1-0 scoreline, to top Pool A with 6 points and a Goal Difference of +5. That ensured qualification into the Semi-Finals, where they were supposed to face Pool B runners-up Argentina. Unfortunately, India lost to Argentina by a solitary goal and could not reach the finals. In the 3rd Place Play-Offs, West Germany scored 2 goals against India, without reply. India ended the tournament in the 4th position, her highest finish in the tournament till date, kick-starting the Women’s Hockey revolution in India.

Indian Women Hockey Team in Summer Olympic Games

In the Summer Olympic Games of 1980, Women’s Hockey was introduced for the first time and six teams, including Indian Women Hockey Team, played a round-robin tournament. India played 5 games, winning 2, drawing 1 and losing 2, scoring 9 goals and conceding 6. India finished the tournament with 5 points and was ranked 4th. Two years later, Women’s Hockey was introduced for the first time in the 1982 Asian Games and the Indian team chose this tournament to finally come out of their shackles.

In the event held at New Delhi, India, the Women’s Hockey Team of India played 5 games, winning all of them, scoring a grandiloquent 37 goals, 20 more than any other team and conceded only 1. With 10 points in their kitty, Indian Women’s Hockey Team won it’s first Gold Medal. Their first game against a timid Hong Kong side ended with the score 22-0 in India’s favor! India also defeated Japan 3-0, demolished South Korea 5-1 and overcame Malaysia 4-0.

Indian Women Hockey Team in Asian Games

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Four years later, though, in the 1986 Asian games, India finished 3rd, with 3 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. From then on began a slump in India’s form and apart from a 3rd place finish in the 1993 Asia Cup, Indian Women Hockey Team was going through a low phase. But like always, Indian Women knew how to fight back, they knew how to conquer their fears. They knew how to get over their demons and so the come back began in the 1998 Asian Games, held at Bangkok, Thailand, when they finished 2nd. In the next year, in the 1999 Asia Cup held at New Delhi, India played a fabulous tournament, reaching the final, only to be defeated by South Korea by a 3-2 scoreline in a pulsating game. But even this defeat would not deter the Indian side, who were on the rise.

Indian Women Hockey Team in Commonwealth Games

The 2002 Commonwealth Games, held in England, marked the finest moments of the Indian Team. 8 teams participated in the tournament, including India. In the preliminary round, India was third in their group, with 1 win and 1 draw out of 3 games. They had scored 3 goals and conceded 4. It looked like the team was destined for another poor finish, after scraping through to the Quarter Finals. Yet, for the relentless Indian eves, the tournament was not over yet. In the quarterfinals, India met South Africa and finally found her lost form, defeating the African Nation 4-3. In the Semi-Final against New Zealand, India fought hard and won the game 2-1, setting up an exciting final with the host nation, England. India was on the rise and even the fan power of the host nation would not deter her now. In an entertaining final, India defeated England 3-2 and won the elusive Gold Medal.

This victory famously inspired the movie Chak De! India, starring Shah Rukh Khan. The movie was released on  2007 and was directed by Shimit Amin and produced by Aditya Chopra. Writer Jaideep Sahni is said to have come across an article about the inspiring victory of the Indian Eves and wrote the screenplay of the movie. The movie sent a wave across the nation and brought deserved limelight to the Indian Women Hockey Team, especially highlighting team spirit as an important factor in winning games.

But the Indian team did not rest on their laurels there. They followed the Commonwealth Games success story by winning the Gold in the maiden Afro Asian Games in the very next year, 2003, in Hyderabad, India. A year later, the “Golden Girls of Hockey” were at it again, as India won Gold in the 2004 Asia Cup, at Sri Lanka. They defeated Japan by a single goal to win their maiden Asia Cup. Two years later in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, India won silver. Since then, Indian Women’s Hockey Team has been on a rise, especially winning the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy and the 2017 Asia Cup. Notably, India qualified for the 2018 Hockey World Cup, by winning the 2017 Asia Cup.

Indian Women Hockey Team Ranking & Achievements

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Currently, the Indian Women Hockey Team is ranked 10th in the FIH World Rankings, which is a ranking system based on the game results of member nations of International Hockey Federation (FIH). The State Government of Odisha has begun sponsoring the team from February 2018, deciding to extend its support for the next 5 years. Incidentally, the State Government of Odisha also sponsors the Men’s Team.

India started 2018 well, by securing 4th position in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Up next was the Asian Women’s Hockey Champions Trophy, held in Donghae City, Korea. Defending champions India entered the tournament as favorites. Odisha defender Sunita Lakra, with a wealth of experience, captained India in absence of Skipper Rani Rampal, who was rested for the tournament. Savita Punia, the Indian goalkeeper was the Vice Captain. The Indian team had a solid defense with Deepika, Deep Grace Ekka, Suman Devi Thoudam and Gurjit Kaur in stellar form ahead of the very capable Savita in goal. The strong midfield consisted of Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur and Udita. The attacking responsibilities were on the strikers Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Anupa Barla. India was strong in the round-robin stage, winning 3 of the 4 games and drawing 1. They scored 11 goals and conceded 5 and topped the table before the Semi-Finals. The final was held on 20th May 2018, with India facing South Korea. In a closely contested game, India was defeated by a solitary goal by Lee Y.

The loss to South Korea was disappointing, but there were a lot of positives even in defeat. The Indian team looks fitter than before and  Sjoerd Marijne, the recently appointed Head Coach, seems to have put together a strong set of player. This is a big positive ahead of the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup scheduled from 21st July to 5th August at London. 16 teams are competing in this year’s tournament, so the competition will be tough. India is in Pool B, along with England, Ireland and the USA. This is Dutchman Sjoerd Marine’s second stint with the Women’s Team and he was the Head Coach of the Men’s Team prior to this. Harendra Singh, who had led the Women’s Team to the Asia Cup Gold in 2017, has been transferred to the men’s team.

Indian Women Hockey Team Star Players

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Savita Punia is the Vice Captain of the Indian Women Hockey Team. But, Rani Rampal, who returns to the team to lead them, is the star of the team and will be crucial to their success. The youngest Indian player in the World Cup squad of 2010, Rani Rampal was the Player of the Tournament that year. She was also named in the Asian All-Stars and the World XI Team in the same year. Daughter of a Cart-puller from Shahbad, Haryana, Rani is the face of Women’s Hockey in India and an inspiration for women all over the world. Her rags to riches story really show that determination and perseverance can take you to the pinnacle of success.

As of now, India has won 6 Gold Medals in Women’s Hockey, including 2 in Asia Cup. The Indian Team has ended the recent Spain tour on a high, defeating the hosts in the final game 4-1, with Rani Rampal and defender Gurjit Kaur scoring 2 goals each. They ended the series 2-2 and now look forward to the Big One next.  The Hockey World Cup has eluded the Indian Eves so far, but this time, they will be quietly confident that they can touch the sky and be la crème de la crème.

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