Rani Rampal

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Buoyed after a 5-0 whitewash of Belarus earlier this month, the Indian women’s hockey team skipper Rani Rampal on Thursday said she is confident of a top finish at the Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2, starting on April 1 in West Vancouver.

Besides India, the tournament will see the likes of Belarus, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile and Uruguay vying for the top honours.

“We go in as the top-ranked team and we are confident we will finish in the top spot. We are going there 10 days before the start of the tournament so we will have enough time to get used to the turf, climate. We also play two practice matches which will help us fine tune further,” Rani said here before the team’s departure.

The ace striker said the team gained a lot after working hard in the national camp in Bhopal under the watchful eyes of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne and analytical coach Eric Wonink. Their training was also overseen by Hockey India’s High Performance Director David John.

“We were put through a rigorous training camp which began in the second week of January. We have worked a lot on our individual skill, brought in a few variations in our techniques to increase speed of play and the team has thoroughly enjoyed working under the new coaches who are very specific in their approach and ensure every girl in the team knows their responsibilities and what is expected of them.”

“Apart from emphasis on fitness, there were also special sessions for mental training and it has helped the team a lot,” explained Rani.

Echoing her skipper, vice captain Deep Grace Ekka said the series win against Belarus was a big confidence booster ahead of the World League Round 2.

“This group has been together for a while now and we know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. I feel the series win against Belarus was a big motivator.”

“There were minor mistakes that we committed against Belarus and we worked on correcting those mistakes these past few weeks. Our primary goal is to qualify for the World League Semi Final and to do that our focus will not just be on attack and speed of play but also a lot of emphasis will be on our defensive structure,” she said.

The Hockey women’s World League Semi Final will be held in June and July with Johannesburg and Brussels set to be the two venues.

Speaking about the women’s team progress over these past few weeks, Marijne said: “The team possesses great skill to play fast but we have also emphasised a lot on defence because a good defence structure is what wins championships. We have worked on our own small targets and I am hopeful they will fetch us good results.”

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