Stick gets the carrot

By NT Bureau Published on Nov 07, 2017 03:04 PM IST

The women of India's national hockey team turned an unlucky number 13 to a virtuous 13, as they clinched the Asia Cup tournament, held in Japan, after a gap of 13 years.

With this victory, they enshrined their place in the Women's World Cup, scheduled to be held in London in July, next year.

Playing under the guidance of new coach, Harendra Singh, the girls secured a 5-4 victory over China in the shootouts, after the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

A proud moment indeed for all Indians, as women have yet again ensured that their performance in hockey has done justice to India's long-standing tradition of success in the sport.

The women's team had failed to qualify for the last World Cup, held in 2014, in Netherlands and had finished ninth in the 2010 event, held in Argentina.

Emerging as Continental champions, India has comfortably secured its position for the July 2018 World Cup after winning a gruelling tournament that ended with a nail-biting finale between the women in blue and their equally strong counterparts from China, in red.

Goalkeeper Savita saved the day for India as she pulled out a stunning save in the shootout. Before this year’s Asia Cup, India had never beaten China in the Asia Cup. This time around, they did it twice — 4-1 in the group stage and through a tie-breaker in the final.

India's last victory in the Asia Cup had come in 2004 with  victory over Japan. With this, both national teams of India—the men's and the women's—have emerged victorious in the Asia Cup, 2017.

This comes as a massive boost for India's ambitions, as 2018 is set to a difficult year with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup, all scheduled to take place.

'The year 2018 is very crucial for Indian women's hockey. We have three important tournaments and I expect minimum two medals out of these three tournaments,' coach Harendra Singh exclaimed after the final.

India’s gold suggests that the team may have turned the corner in Asia and achieved parity or approximation with Japan and China. India would need to work extremely hard to maintain this status.

A global medal is beyond India right now — the world’s top-6 play at a much higher level. But winning the continental title after 13 years is a sign that the team is on the rise.

But with a strong team display and an exemplary performance, the women of India's national hockey team have given wings to people's expectations. As they are further motivated to escalate heights in 2018, they would deliver a strong message to society—allow little girls to go out and live their dreams without confining them behind the veils of tradition.