‘We’ve improved but long way to go’

India's women's hockey team heads for a six Test match tour of New Zealand as they look to prepare for the FIH World League Round 2 tournament to be played in New Delhi in February. In an interview with Sportline on the eve of the team's departure, head coach Neil Hawgood spoke about the the progress made in recent months and the challenges ahead. Excerpts:

It has been five months since you have been in-charge of the women's team? How has the team shaped up so far?

It has improved a lot. One of the first things that we did was to make them understand that it's better to train for less time with more intensity than vice-versa. So, instead of 19-20 sessions a week, we have 11 session now. The girls also have stopped equating quantity with quality. There is a marked improvement in their fitness level from when I joined, at the same time, there's scope for more. It's not where it ought to be — on par with the top teams — and in that regard. . Ben Dascombe (team's exercise physiologist) is doing a great job with the team, but we have a long way to go.

Where do you rate India's performance in the eight-nation Champions Challenge Cup in Dublin in October?

It was okay. We lost the second round match to Scotland on penalty shootout after a few of our players were sent off. We did not finish where we should have. But it was for the first time the team was playing under new rules. Probably the girls took some time to adjust. The experience was important though.

Before the Dublin event, you had said that India didn't have enough bench strength. A few domestic tournaments have happened since, is new talent coming up?

... contd.

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