Tokyo : The Indian women’ hockey team may have lost in the bronze medal play-off in its maiden semi-final entry in the Olympics, but it won the hearts of its fans with its spirited performances. IANS looks at six players who played a transformative role, besides the now-famous Rani Rampal and Gurjit Kaur.
Savita Punia (Goalkeeper)
Kept the team in the hunt during the bronze medal playoff.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper from Haryana kept India’s hopes alive on numerous occasions. She kept the team in the hunt during the bronze medal playoff against Great Britain. She was outstanding against Australia in the quarterfinals when she stood like a rock to thwart wave after wave of attacks by the Hockeyroos.
Deep Grace Ekka (Defender)
An experienced campaigner, she kept the defence strong as a unit even when it suffered big defeats in the preliminary rounds. She showed her true potential in the knockout matches as India beat Australia and went head-to-head with Argentina and Great Britain before they finally lost. Though some errors had crept into her game in the semifinal and bronze medal matches, she had done enough by that time to merit this mention.
Another defender who stood out as India battled the mighty Australians in the quarterfinals. She was tireless with her runs up and down the pitch and also did well on penalty corners. The 23-year-old from Hisar, Haryana, was assured in her tackling and did not mind putting her body in line while defending. A relative newcomer in the team with 36 caps before the Olympics, she has established herself and should continue to get more chances.
Sushila Chanu (Midfielder)
Not related to Mirabai Chanu, she was the fulcrum on which rotated the Indian midfield. She was the main feeder and kept the forwards busy as she linked up well with the defence. The 29-year-old from Manipur had led the team in Rio and was captain of the squad that won bronze in the 2013 Junior Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Vandana Katariya (Forward)
The lynchpin of the Indian attack, Vandana made an impact in the match against South Africa when she became the first Indian woman to score a hat-trick at the Olympics. She made some good runs and linked up well with Rani Rampal and fellow forward Navneet Kaur. The 29-year-old from Haridwar in Uttarakhand kept the rival defence busy with her incisive runs.
Salima Tete (Midfielder)
The 19-year-old from Simdega district in Jharkhand came up with some incisive runs in the match against Great Britain, one of which resulted in a penalty corner off which Gurjit Kaur scored India’s second goal. She is quick on the counter and also excelled in her role as rusher while defending penalty corners, at times putting her body in line to thwart the short corner specialists.