Some sporting venues, dates, and results remain etched in memory for an eternity for both players and spectators alike. The Sengkang Hockey Stadium in Singapore is one hunting ground that the Indian women’s hockey team and their countless fans worldwide will likely never forget.
Last-minute drama on and off the pitch
The date was November 5, 2016, and the Indian girls were against China in the finals of the Asian Women’s Champions Trophy. Zhong Menglin had restored parity in the 44th minute for China after Deep Grace Ekka had given India the lead in the 13th minute.
Deepika Thakur was unstoppable with only over one minute left on the clock as she found a move from Nikki Pradhan nearby the halfway mark and made a scintillating solo run to beat four Chinese players and enter the opposition circle. She took a crash within the circle after striking a powerful reverse which was blocked off by the Chinese custodian.
Undaunted, captain Rani Rampal entered the Chinese circle just a few seconds later and earned a PC for India. A brilliant variation took the Chinese runners by surprise and Rani took a go at goal which was blocked by the diving goalie. Deepika pounced on the rebound in a flash and took the aerial route with the ball crashing into the utmost effective right-hand corner of the net.
With 20 seconds to go, India thought they’d the winner however the referee was not even close to convinced. After a lengthy discussion with her fellow-referee, the target was allowed to stand and the Indians were ecstatic. The Chinese players, however, surrounded the referee and made a decision to stage a walk-out. Chaos prevailed before the officials convinced the Chinese to return to the field and India were finally declared winners.
The win was historic and it marked the start of a brand new chapter for Indian hockey. Couple of years later, history beckons again as the defending champions open their campaign a week from now in Donghae City, Korea. Can India strike gold again?
Australian Neil Hawgood was the coach of the women’s team when girls conquered Asia in Singapore. It was under Hawgood that India had earlier won silver in the Asian Champions Trophy in 2013.
Hawgood’s contract ended the exact same year and was not renewed with Sjoerd Marijne overpowering in early 2017.
The thankless task ahead for Sjoerd Marijne
Sjoerd Marijne is back with the Indian women’s team after a distance of eight months. In the interim, the Indian women have won the Asia Cup to reaffirm their continental supremacy under the guidance of Harendra Singh. Can Marijne script history by taking the team forward and building on their success?
Analytical coach Eric Wonink has prepared girls for the upcoming tournament in the Bangalore camp as Marijne will join the team directly at the venue, Sportskeeda has learned. Wonink has been working with girls for well over a year now and was appointed in February of last at once that fellow Dutchman Marijne was.
An enormous challenge awaits Sjoerd Marijne, as he occupies the mantle of head coach of the women’s side on the eve of a large tournament as India get set to protect the title they won in Singapore couple of years ago. He was expected to fit the performance of his predecessors by guiding the men to a podium finish in the CWG and there’s no reason to think that the expectations will soon be any different with the women.
Anything less than the usual gold might be deemed a failure and winning the gold too might not assuage his critics, as he is unlikely to be credited for the success of a group which he hasn’t moulded himself.