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--K. Arumugam

Indian women, an oasis in the desert of Asian subcontinent, have always been in the mind for all right reasons.

undefined Smaller base, lesser activities, meagre resources, no glorious history in the colonial India, did hardly affect them in producing some scintillating, ever-green performances over the years.

Their sporting attire kept on changing time to time, from mini-skirt to body huggers, but their determination has never.

There can be any number of glories with women hockey, but I catch just GLORIOUS HIGH FIVE:

undefined 1974 World Cup: It was women’s world’s first major competition, coming six years before they were admitted to Olympics. India had a very nice team led by enigmatic persona of Ajinder Kaur. The team won three matches in the pool, lost one, but topped the pool. Ajinder’s daredevils met Holland in the semis, but last by a solitary goal. Bronze also eluded to Germany, again just by a goal.

1982 Asian Games: Women entered the Olympic hockey arena thanks to then Indian prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But our girls, despite west boycott, missed out the podium on overconfidence. How ever just 18 months later at Delhi, where the Asian Games for the first time saw women hockey in its ambit, Indian women were the toast of the nation even since the ball was rolled at the pre-modernized Shivaji Stadium. Indian girls led by Eliza Nelson with such stars as Razia Zaidi, Varsha Soni, Sudha Chaudhary, Anurita Dubey, Prem Maya, young sensation Rajbir Kaur, Selma D’Silva rolled like a colossus before getting crowned with the glittering title. The scores read like Indian men of Pre-Independent India. India 22 Hong Kong 0, India 5 South Korea 1, India 4 Malaysia 0, India 3 Japan 0, India 3 Singapore 0.

undefined 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games: With top ranked Australia, New Zealand and England, Indian girls were never given a medal chance. Some stirring performance, engineered by the ever-green midfield what with Sita Gussain, Sumrai Tete and playmakers in Sanggai Chanu and Manjinder Kaur and penalty corner specialist in Suman Bala, India proved the pundits wrong. India met South Africa in the Quarters. Despite conceding three unanswered goals, the Indian women came back strongly in the second quarter to force extra time, where Sunit Kullu struck the golden goal. New Zealand was beaten, even today an believable proposition! 17th ranked Indian angels beat 5th ranked Kiwis! An hour after this history, England did a huge favour for India defeating Australia in the other semis. India-England, which played a draw in the pool, again played out but an electrifying draw. Mamta Kharab struck the golden goal off a stunning shot by Suman Bala in the penalty drill. This win changed the perception of Indian girls: shortly Chak de India film was made out of Manchester magic. undefined

2009 Asia Cup: At Bangkok, where a decade before Dhanraj Pillay’s dream team won the Asian Games after a gap of 32 years, our girls produced some electric shows before winning the silver. Its not gold, but worth it, as the semifinal win ensured them world cup berth, and it came amidst touch challenge mounted by the Koreans. The semifinal was more than the final, as only top two teams will get next year’s world Cup. Not often did India perform against Korea s they did in that need of hour., India took 3-2 lead with gems of goals from Jasjeet Kaur and Surinder Kaur, but it was under constant threat. At the stroke of hooter, Korea got a Penalty corner. Goalie Deepkia Murthy and defenders Subhadra Pradhan and Binita Toppo brought their best, and stood to task even as Korea got another two PC as follow up. Coach MK Kaushik rightly nominated Subhadra Pradhan for the Player of the Tournament award. India actually won the Asia Cup twice, but the stakes were not much then. That's why Bangkok silver is significant.

2015 Antwerp HWL Semifinals: Sometimes, as above in the Bangkok Asia Cup, what matters is wining crucial matches that is more important than the titles, which comes as a bonus. The essence is win a match where you do or die. This situation emanated in Antwerp 13 months ago. It was World League’s semifinals. India need to come at least fifth in the rank to enter the elusive Olympic berth. As expectedly, India was beaten lock, stock and barrel in the quarter final, 0-7 by the Dutch. India huffed and buffed before a tie-break success against Italy in the 5-8th classifier.

undefined Now, If India can win the Japanese, and get fifth position, it would have ensured Rio ticket, though the announcement to that effect will come much later. It was a tough match, where the other Asian power house dominated. However, when a deep defender just mishandled her possession, hawkish Rani Ramphal snatched from her on a quick turn and drew the ball into empty circle, whacked a shocker to give India a relief. Thereafter, the Japanese did every trick in the trade, but the defence won’t give up, wont crack. Half a dozen penalty corners were seen, double the number of attacks blunted what with Indian goalie turning out a Champagne stuff. This lone 1-0 win led India to the Rio, a journey which they missed quite often, and got again after 36 years wait.

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