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Fatigue & Defensive Approach - Reasons India underperformed at Women's Hockey World Cup 2022

The Bridge decodes the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup 2022 campaign of the Indian team and why they underperformed on the big stage.

Savita Punia Hockey

FILE PHOTO: Goalkeeper Savita Punia led the Indian women's team to a title win at the Women's Asian Champions Trophy 2023 in Ranchi.


The Bridge Desk

Published: 14 July 2022 1:28 PM GMT

After the high of the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian Women's team was up for their next big task- Hockey World Cup 2022 (excluding FIH Pro League as the majority of teams came with developmental squads).

The expectations were high and it was based on the recent performances of India against strong teams.

However, India was underwhelming, to say the least. Though India ended the tournament with a win against Japan, that is the only game India can take some positive from.

A lot of hindsight, ifs and buts are there about this underperforming Indian side. We will look at a few reasons which were evident during this uninspiring campaign of the Indian team.

Fatigue or Burnout?

In a space of fewer than 12 months, India has played 3 major tournaments which are the Tokyo Summer Olympics, FIH Pro League and Hockey World Cup, not to forget the Junior Hockey World Cup which had quite a first-team regulars.

From 21st January 2022 to 14th July 2022, India has played a whopping 25 games at the senior level.

With the Indian core remaining the same for all these games, it looks like the team was fatigued and the peak never came which was expected.

India needs to have a better developmental system at the domestic level to meet the amount of hockey which is being played at the top level.

Defensive Approach

The first and foremost thing India lacked was the intensity to play attacking hockey. They played it in patches but in a tournament like World Cup, you need to be consistent as coach Janeke Schopman insisted before the tournament.

India played two games against England and China which were nowhere close to an attacking intent. India played the last group game against New Zealand with attacking intent and scored three goals.

At a tournament where you are locking horns with the best in the world, India needed to be more intense but they went into the shell it seems.

The Penalty Corner Horror

India was horrible when it came to penalty corner conversion. India won 43 penalty corners in 6 games and converted 4 of them which is a 9 percent conversion rate.

In a must-win game against New Zealand, India converted only 1 penalty corner out of a 13 PC won. A pretty bad state at this level of hockey.

Gurjit Kaur is designated penalty corner expert of India but we saw players like Monika and Deep Grace Ekka taking responsibilities too which failed miserably.

India needs to develop PC experts who can take the responsibility apart from Gurjit Kaur much like Men's team did when Harmanpreet took the mantle from Rupinder Pal Singh. India desperately needs a coach dedicated to penalty corners.

Hockey is a game of fine margins, had India scored 2-3 of them, this article would have been about India's run till the semi-finals may be.

Underutilization of resources

India missed out on using its resources properly. The pace of Salima Tete was something India could have used massively but the issue of ball retention in tight spaces and the inaccurate passing by the midfield never helped.

India was physically outmuscled a lot of times and which broke the fluency of the Indian attack leaving the forward line clueless.

This picture clearly shows, Indian coach Janeke Schopman asking her players to use the wide areas and flanks but this wasn't executed due to the lack of physicality in Indians. (Credits- Twitter/supersonicbirua)

Experienced players like Navjot, Sushila, Gurjit, and Monika lacked the authority and it put pressure on players like Vandana, Lalremsiami and Neha.

India certainly had some positives. Youngsters like Neha Goyal, Salima Tete, Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi (Underwhelming but a great asset for the future) and veterans like Vandana Katariya and Savita Punia.

India needs a mindset change and a fresh approach toward big tournaments. With an able leader in Savita Punia and ample time due to the postponed Asian Games, India needs a fresh roadmap for the future.

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