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Updated December 29th, 2023 at 18:56 IST

Indian women's team works with Rupinder Pal Singh to address penalty corner conversion woes

Despite winning the recent Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi defeating Japan, India had wasted plenty of penalty corners, and coach Janneke Schopman had marked it as an area that needed urgent improvement.

Unbeaten India hold advantage over Korea
Unbeaten India hold advantage over Korea | Image:TheHockeyIndia/X
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In order to fix its perennial penalty-corner woes, the Indian women's hockey team is engaged in a skill-sharpening exercise with legendary drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh during the on-going five-day camp here ahead of next month's FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi.

Despite winning the recent Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi defeating Japan, India had wasted plenty of penalty corners, and coach Janneke Schopman had marked it as an area that needed urgent improvement.

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Ace women's drag flicker Gurjit Kaur termed the camp, that began on Wednesday at the SAI Bengaluru, as a perfect learning space ahead of the crucial qualifiers.

The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held between January 13 and 19, 2024.

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"We are learning new things each day and looking to further improve our game by focusing on specific aspects that need refinement. Rupinder has been instrumental in guiding us.

"As we gear up for the upcoming tournaments, we are confident that the lessons learned here will contribute significantly to our performance on the field," said Gurjit.

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It was not tough to see why Gurjit emphasised on improvement as the women outfit's shortcomings in penalty-corner conversion was quite evident in the Hangzhou Asian Games, where they ended up with a bronze medal.

In that tournament, India had earned 69 penalty corners and converted just 16 of them at an average of 23.1 percent.

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That Achilles' heel haunted them in the semifinal against hosts China as India could not score off the six penalty corners they earned.

Eventually, India lost that game 0-4.

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India nearly botched up the bronze medal match against Japan too as they could score only once from 11 penalty corners. However, they managed a 2-1 win over the Asian rivals.

Deepika, who regularly takes the penalty corner, said Rupinder shared the nuances about drag flicking such as the angle to take the shot and how to tackle the first-rushers from the opposition defence.

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"He shared insights on the first rushers, how they have become fearless and close down on the ball faster than before. To counter this, he advised us to pick up the ball faster.

"We also picked his brain on how to beat the first rusher, determining the line the rusher follows, where to get the ball stopped, which angle to take the shot in, and how to deal with mis-trapped balls," noted Deepika.

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Rupinder, who had scored a whopping 234 goals in 223 appearances before his retirement in 2021, said he was satisfied by the lesson-intake ability of his wards.

"Gurjit and Deepika are exceptional drag flickers. They quickly understand and implement my pointers. This crash course will be a fantastic way to brush up their skills before heading to Ranchi," said the towering full-back, who played a stellar role in India's bronze-winning effort in the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

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In the Olympics Qualifiers ahead of the 2024 Paris Games, India are placed in Pool B along with New Zealand, Italy, and the United States.

Meanwhile, the Pool A consists of Germany, Japan, Chile, and the Czech Republic. 

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Published December 29th, 2023 at 18:56 IST

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