Deepika Thakur (C) in action
She lends rich experience to the Indian team – a two-time World Cupper – Deepika Thakur – is a calming influence in the midfield controlling possession with aplomb as well as blunting out opposition raids with alacrity. The 28-year-old Indian team vice-captain, who has made more than hundred international appearances, has also featured in two Asian Games (2010 and 2014) as well as two Commonwealth Games (2010 and 2014).
The Haryana girl, who is employed with Railways, spoke on the Indian team’s preparations for the upcoming FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals:
Q. How are the preparations going on for the upcoming FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals to be held in Brasschaat, Belgium from June 20?
We have trained hard for the world league semifinals and the girls are really excited about delivering a decent performance in Belgium. Keeping fingers crossed.
Q. You have played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, as well as in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games besides the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games – you bring some much experience to this Indian team, which largely comprises youngsters.
Having played in so many major tournaments does help you to deal better with certain situations during a game. I always look to help my team-mates whenever needed both on the pitch and off the pitch. It gives me satisfaction when the team benefits from my experience.
Q. You have been an integral part of the Indian women’s hockey team for long and have been the vice-captain of the side since mid-2014 – does the vice-captain responsibility make you extra determined to contribute for the team?
Look, I always strive to give my hundred percent for my team irrespective of whether I’m the vice-captain or just a team member. The idea is to take all team members into confidence and play as a unit. There is no such thing as senior or junior players – all are same and they all fight for the country.
Q. The Indian women’s hockey team have been facing heavy defeats against top teams over the last few years, but do you think the team’s goalless draw against world number two Australia in the recent Hawke’s Bay Cup showed that women’s hockey is indeed progressing in the right direction?
We are improving as a team and there is no doubt about that. The way we played out a goalless draw against a mighty side like Australia was an indication of that. We played full press and even missed quite a few scoring chances and who knows if we had converted them we could have caused a big upset. The draw was a big boost for the team.
Q. India got the better of the higher-ranked Japan 3-2 Hawke’s Bay Cup to avoid the wooden spoon and you scored the match-winner.
I enjoyed scoring the match clincher after both teams were locked 2-2. Japan is higher ranked than India and so it was satisfying to beat them and avoid finishing last.
Q. The Indian women’s hockey team don’t get to play the top teams regularly as they do not make the cut for the Olympics and Champions Trophy because of their lower ranking. The only time India faces top teams are at the World Cup, which is held every four years. Do you think the Hockey World League concept is a huge opportunity for India to play top teams regularly?
The Hockey World League concept is helping not just Indian hockey but also other nations across the globe. Playing top teams helps as you saw how we played in the Hawke’s Bay Cup. If we played lower ranked teams they benefit more than we, so it is important to play top teams regularly.
Q. The men’s Hero Hockey India League has been a big hit – do you think a women’s Hero Hockey India League is the need of the hour?
Absolutely! At the moment there are not too many girls playing hockey save for a few select pockets. If you take a close look, barring Haryana, Punjab, Railways, Odisha, Jharkhand and MP, players do emerge from other areas but not in great numbers. A women’s HIL could help widen the player net and provide a proper supply line to the national team.
Q. Talking of the upcoming FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals, India are placed in Pool B alongside top teams like Australia and New Zealand. How do you assess India’s chances?
We are playing well as a team in recent times and our fighting performance in the recent Hawke’s Bay Cup has instilled a lot of self-belief that we can stand our own against the best teams of the world. We want to finish in the top-3 though it won’t easy accomplishing that.
Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here