The Indian women’s hockey team will begin its campaign in the Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 against Kazakhstan, the second lowest-ranked side in the competition (World No. 33), on Monday.
The hosts, ranked second in the tournament, are expected to make a winning start to the competition from which the top-placed two teams will advance to the next round. The competition will be played on a round-robin format.
The only team that can push the World No. 12 Indian women in this competition will be Japan, ranked ninth in the world. However, the Ritu Rani-led combination is confident of finishing on top in the six-team event. The other teams in the competition are Fiji (59th), Russia (20th) and Malaysia (22nd). The Indians, though, are not taking any team lightly. Malaysia, coached by C.R. Kumar, will be the team to watch out for. Kumar was associated with the Indian team till recently. “Going by rankings, we should have it easy, but we are a young side and there is no complacency, we will take it one match at a time,” said India’s chief coach Neil Hawgood.
While the Indians are superior in terms of skills and even fitness to some extent, the main concern for the coach is the physical game that the opposition is likely to play. “The Indian girls are still not ready to take on the physical challenge,” Hawgood admitted.
Kazakhstan qualified from Round 1 of the HWL by finishing second behind Malaysia in the qualifying tournament.