India’s women’s hockey team will qualify and do well in Paris, says Jagbir Singh

India Women's Hockey
India Women’s Hockey (Source: The Hockey India) 

There are not too many people who are upbeat about Indian women’s hockey these days. Despite the pessimism from a few quarters, Jagbir Singh, former India captain, is an eternal optimist.
At the FIH Olympic qualifiers in Ranchi on Tuesday, India did well to floor Italy in a crucial league match, the scoreline (5-1) an indicator of their ascendancy. However, some were still fretting over what lies ahead on Thursday, against Germany in the semi-finals.
“I think people’s expectations are justified but we need to back this Indian team,”Jagbir told RevSportz in an exclusive chat. “The way we have seen the team play three matches, there has been a lot of fresh energy and the ability to overcome tough situations.”
Jagbir, former India captain and star centre forward of yesteryear, said this women’s team could go the full distance. “I am going to tell you something which will shock you,” he said.“I not only have faith we will qualify for the Paris Olympics, but we will also do well in Paris.”
He is not looking at the immediate challenge against Germany, but focusing on the dynamics involved in how three teams will make the cut for Paris. “Yes, we were shaky against the USA but after that we have settled well,” said Jagbir. “It’s hard to just talk of a few players who are doing well, but minus Vandana Katariya, the entire squad is coming together and producing performances which are good.”

He was very appreciative of the efforts put in by Salima Tete, playmaker and an opportunist who has not missed chances. Playing in her home state, she has soaked in the crowd support and upped her game. “I will talk about Salima in detail later, she is a big star,” said Jagbir. “I think it is important that the other performers like Udita [Duhan], now with an experience of 100 caps, are able to play freely.”
To say there has been no pressure on India would be stupid. JannekeSchopman, the coach, has faced the heat since last year and Savita Punia, the goalkeeper-captain, is well aware what pressure of expectation means. After the match against Italy, Salima was on air saying: “I know what the team expects from me, I know what I need to do and deliver.” According to Jagbir, playing Germany will be tough. “The hockey which USA or New Zealand play is very different from what the Germans will churn out,” he said. “The European style will be fast and furious with great efficiency. We, Team India, just need to play our natural game.”
Looking ahead,Jagbir, who moved seamlessly into the analyst’s role after his playing days, said one had to be positive and optimistic. “I repeat we will qualify and do well in Paris,” he said. “The way the seniors and juniors are combining, there are very positive signs.”
Over to Ranchi.

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