Year of mixed fortunes for Indian Hockey
New Delhi, January 1, 2023
It turned out to be a year of mixed fortunes for the Indian men's and women's hockey teams at the international level.
The women's hockey team showcased their potential by finishing third in their debut Hockey Pro League 2021-22 season, winning a bronze at the Commonwealth Games and closing the year by lifting the inaugural edition of the FIH Nations Cup.
"After two years of very limited hockey due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were really fortunate that we got to play a lot of exciting tournaments this year. It was an action-packed 2022, and I believe we made the most of it. We focused on playing good hockey and that really helped us grow from strength to strength," said skipper Savita.
The men's team bagged the bronze medal at the Asia Cup in Jakarta with a new set of players. This was followed by the FIH Hockey 5s title and the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. They also finished third in the Hockey Pro League 2021/22 season.
"We did well, we played good hockey this year, but I believe we can do better than this. Overall, the year was full of positives. There were a lot of learnings involved, and we have a good momentum that will help us at the World Cup in Bhubaneswar - Rourkela next month," said skipper Harmanpreet Singh.
Experienced forward Vandana Katariya was bestowed with the prestigious Padma Shri award and defender Deep Grace Ekka received the Arjuna Award for their contributions to Women's Hockey.
Both the men's and women's team bagged as many as five awards at the FIH Star Awards 2022 - Savita (FIH Goalkeeper of The Year), Janneke Schopman (FIH Coach of the Year), Harmanpreet (FIH Player of the Year), PR Sreejesh (FIH Goalkeeper of The Year) and Graham Reid (FIH Coach of the Year).
One of the biggest highlights was the Women's Team winning the inaugural edition of the Nations Cup held in Valencia in December. The Savita-led squad remained unbeaten in the tournament. They topped Pool B, edged past Ireland 2-1 in a shootout in the semi-final before beating hosts Spain 1-0 in a thrilling final to clinch the title. The win secured India a place in the 2023-24 Pro League.
"It's a great feeling to secure a place in the next season of the FIH Pro League. Our goals for 2023 remain the same, we want to keep improving and doing better each and every day. We have the Asian Games scheduled next year, and the ultimate goal will be to win a gold medal to secure a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics," said Savita.
Meanwhile, the men's team, who are gearing up for the World Cup, started their new season of the Pro League on a positive note. They beat New Zealand 4-3 and 7-4 and registered a 2 - 2 (3 - 1 SO) win and a 2-3 loss against Spain in their opening set of matches which were held in Bhubaneswar in October.
They also travelled to Australia for a five-match Test series against the World No. 1 as part of their preparations for the World Cup.
Harmanpreet, who will lead India at the World Cup said, "Our immediate target is to do well and start the new year with a podium finish at World Cup. We are given one more opportunity to play the prestigious event on our home soil, and we will give our absolute best to make our country proud by finishing on the podium."
"The World Cup will set the tone for the whole year. We have the Asian Games lined up, and our target for that is to win a gold medal as it will ensure we secure a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics. The Pro League matches will play a vital role in our preparations for the Asian Games," he added.