Women's hockey team ready for World Cup challenge

The team's one-week training camp under coach-in-charge Sandeep Somesh concluded Friday at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala. "World Cup is a big challenge and we should not expect any overnight miracle in it. Our current world ranking is 13 and we are in the toughest pool where we have to play against top teams of Holland, Australia and Germany," Somesh told IANS Friday before leaving for Rosario.

Somesh, a 1998 Asian Games gold medallist, was given the charge of the team after chief coach Maharaj Kishan Kaushik resigned following allegations of sexual harassment by a player, Ranjitha Devi.  Somesh feels that it was a big challenge for the team to come out of the controversy.

"There is a lot of pressure on the players but they are trying to come out of it and to focus on their goal. We cannot stop at one point and we have to continuously move ahead," he said. Somesh hoped the team will put up a good show at the World Cup.

"It would be a good outing for the team. Our players would get good international exposure and they would certainly improve from there. We have worked on our shortcomings in the recent camp at NIS," he said. "We are going with an open mind for the World Cup and we will take it match to match. The exposure that we will get in Argentina will certainly help us in the CWG, where we want to figure at least in the medal bracket," Somesh added.

On preparations for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October, Somesh said: "We would certainly have home advantage while playing at New Delhi in October. But at the same time there would be an added pressure of the high expectations of home crowd. The whole team is performing as a single unit, with a lot of team spirit and it would certainly help us on the field."

India had won gold and silver medals in the 2002 and 2006 editions of the Commonwealth Games. Indian captain Surinder Kaur expects good results in both World Cup and in the Commonwealth Games. "We have a good mix of experienced and young players in the team. I am personally very satisfied with the team's preparations for the World Cup and expecting good results from it. All players are going very strong," Kaur told IANS.

"We do not want to lose our focus and concentration by unnecessarily thinking about past controversies. We are working very hard to improve our standing in the World Cup and hope to reach the finals of the Commonwealth Games," she added.

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