Hockey

Mission Tokyo — it’s time for the reckoning

All the best! Rani Rampal and Kathleen Sharkey will hope to make the preparations over the last 12 months count.

All the best! Rani Rampal and Kathleen Sharkey will hope to make the preparations over the last 12 months count.   | Photo Credit: BiswaranjanRout

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Women lock horns with USA

Over the next two days, compatriots Sjoerd Marijne and Janneke Schopman (of the Netherlands) will be in opposing camps, trying to go one-up on each other at the Olympic Qualifiers here. The two are in charge of teams that have had contrasting Olympic histories.

And, on the field, Rani Rampal and Kathleen Sharkey will hope to make preparations over the last 12 months count. Sharkey at 29 is five years older, but in every other aspect the India skipper is far ahead.

Lynchpin

Rani has been part of India’s ascent over the last decade, the lynchpin of its success, a leader since her junior days and the talisman that drives the side.

She also has 60 matches more under her belt. Most importantly, she leads a side that has been together for a long time. Unlike Sharkey, who is one of only three USA women here with over 100 caps.

Numbers favour USA (22-4). India last won an encounter between the two in July 2016, but has improved in every department including fitness. The last face-off was a draw.

“I have read about coaches who see the two as a single match but I don’t. We will take it one by one. You can see from the result on Friday what you have to adjust and that works best for us,” Marijne said on the eve of the first of the two games that would decide who gets a ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Schopman belongs to the other category. “It’s like the first half is played on Friday and the second on Saturday. You just have to see how it goes,” she shrugged.

It’s the final step for both sides. “These two games are what we focused on and trained and waited for a whole year,” Rani said.

Sharkey was unperturbed about the host crowd's reputation. "We played away in eight countries in the Pro League so I think we are prepared for that," she said.

The last time USA toured India, 18 years ago, it left without playing a game, citing security concerns. In 48 hours, India would be hoping to prove them wrong, both on and off the field.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 5:49:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/mission-tokyo-its-time-for-the-reckoning/article29845579.ece

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