Views & Voices

Why India should not read too much into the group stage defeats against Netherlands and Australia in Hockey

By Puneet Tripathi

The Indian women’s hockey team faced a huge task against the rampaging Netherlands team in its first game at the Tokyo Olympics. After the first two quarters ended in a draw, the much-fitter and physically dominant Dutch eves came out roaring, scoring four goals to take the match away. Captain Rani Rampal scored India’s only goal in a 5-1 defeat. 

For India, goalkeeper Savita Punia showed a lot of brevity and tenacity to keep the attacks at bay for most of the game. The dominance can also be gauged by the fact that the Dutch team got six penalty corners, while India got none. At regular intervals, India showed flashes of counter-attacks and with a little more luck, the score would’ve been a little more respectable.

The men’s team, after beating New Zealand 3-2 in their opening game, faced Australia in their second group game and was crushed severely to a 7-1 defeat. Dilpreet Singh scored the consolation goal against the team from Down Under. While both results show a huge gap in numbers, here’s why not a lot should be read into them –

The Netherlands Women’s hockey team is the best in the world by a mile, both on rankings as well as on quality. In fact, a lot of experts and former hockey players pick this side to be the greatest women’s team in the history of the sport. It won the last two World Cups in 2014 and 2018 and is a dominating force with a plethora of world beaters in its ranks.

The women’s team from Holland boasts of significant natural advantage in terms of physical development, and their dexterity with the sticks is second to none. With players such as Eva de Goede also in the ranks, it makes matters worse for every other opponent that faces the Netherlands. Thus, the Indian women’s team must continue to work hard and concentrate on their next opponent, Germany, who they play on 26 July.

The Indian men’s team, however, is better placed and clearly deserved to perform better. While they were also up against the world’s best, the Indian team is ranked 4th in the world and hence should’ve come up with an improved display. However, the team has one victory under its belt and has learnt its lessons. Goalkeeper and senior pro-PR Sreejesh had an underwhelming outing and he will be eager to make amends in the next game against Spain, to be played on 28 July.

Graham Reid’s boys must’ve taken several lessons from the game – from improving their defences to strengthening their forward passing. The players also need to work harder on their positioning, as it was easily out-witted by the Australians. Reid, a legend in his own right, is the right man to turn it around and the team will need to shed all negativity to come back into the thick of things to win against Spain.

About the Author

Puneet Tripathi is a Sports Journalist and research analyst based at Delhi. He has been with NewsX and other reputed media networks for more than seven years.

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