Rankings don't matter much in modern hockey: Rani Rampal
Rani Rampal's path to becoming a top-level international hockey player has been replete with struggles that might have at times, appeared insurmountable because of the 'phase' she went through.
The struggles of a sportsperson are often swept under the carpet once a player embraces success. And Rani Rampal's path to becoming a top-level international hockey player has been replete with struggles that might have at times, appeared insurmountable because of the 'phase' she went through.
The Shahabad girl does not hesitate one bit to throw light on her initial struggle in her hockey journey. "My parents have slogged a lot for me. My father used to work as a cart-puller when I first picked up the hockey stick and enrolled at the Shahabad Hockey Academy run by Dronacharya Awardee Baldev Singh at the age of nine," she says in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.I love the captaincy responsibility; it gives me an extra kick: says Rani Rampal
"We used to then live in a small mud house in Shahabad, where the roof would leak during the rainy period, giving us enough reasons to be worried. I can never forget how my family has supported my hockey; my parents have sacrificed a lot for me. I have seen my father slog during the sweltering summer when most others would prefer to stay indoors," Rani recounts her struggles with an unbridled passion.
"The girls are raring to go. Our preparations have come off well. We have a good bunch of youth and experience and we want to make a statement with our performance at London."
Rani's happiness is apparent when she talks about the two-storey house she has built for her parents. The home has all modern amenities, including a modular kitchen. "There cannot be any bigger happiness than building a house for my parents. Today, I don't want my father to work anymore; rather he should spend quality time with his grandchildren (her brothers' kids)."
Indeed, her parents have been a tower of support over the years, but there is another particular person in her life.
It's the Shahabad Hockey Academy coach Baldev Singh.
"I am playing for India for the last ten years, and it is all because of my coach Baldev (Singh) Sir. During my initial hockey training days, Sir gave me a hockey stick, dress and kit as my family could not afford it – he wanted someone like me from a low-income background to make a name in the sport," she says.
"Without his blessings, I wouldn't have reached this far," she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
It is the same Baldev Singh who has trained Surinder Kaur and Mamta Kharab, who had gone to serve the national team with distinction.
"We used to then live in a small mud house in Shahabad, where the roof would leak during the rainy period, giving us enough reasons to be worried."
Rani also revealed one incident which pointed to the strict disciplinarian Baldev Singh was. "Sir was very strict. One day in 2002, I was supposed to attend practice at 5.00 am, but I arrived at 5.05 am. He told me to pay a fine of Rs 100 for coming late as a way of telling me to be a disciplined player. Of course, he never took the money as she knew well that I could not afford it," she reminisces.
Ten years has been a long international hockey journey for Rani Rampal
She was the youngest member of the Indian team at the 2010 World Cup held in Argentina – a tourney where she announced her arrival on the international stage.
She scored seven goals and was adjudged the Young Player of the Tournament – Rani was subsequently named in the Asian All-Star and World XI teams in 2010. With a bag of experience – three Commonwealth Games, (2010, 2014, 2018), two Asian Games (2010, 2014), one World Cup (2010) and one Olympics (2016), - Rani is focused on guiding the Indian eves to an eyeball-grabbing performance at the 14th FIH World Cup in London.https://twitter.com/TheBridge_IN/status/1020264832321241094
"The girls are raring to go. Our preparations have come off well. We have a good bunch of youth and experience, and we want to make a statement with our performance in London," Rani confidently says.
Rani's striking prowess is well known, and now she has to balance her goal-scoring or goal-creating skills with captaincy responsibilities. "I love the captaincy responsibility; it gives me an extra kick. It's about taking everything together in our pursuit of performing well in the World Cup. Our fitness levels are as good as any other side, and we have reasons to be upbeat," she oozes confidence.
The 23-year-old, who is employed with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), is undaunted by the prospect of facing world number 2 England in front of their home crowd.
"Look, in modern hockey rankings do not matter much as any team is capable of beating any side. England is a quality side, and we had beaten them at the 2018 Commonwealth Games 2-1 after conceding a first-minute goal in the league phase. So they are beatable, and we are positive going into the first match," she fires a parting shot.
Hockey freaks would indeed hope that the Indian eves go beyond their world number 10 ranking and pull off a memorable World Cup journey.