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Indian women's hockey, reeling from Paris 2024, faces a tough challenge in Odisha.

India is set to clash with China in their opening match of the FIH Hockey Pro League. (Hockey India)

Despite missing the Paris Olympics, India, along with top teams like China, USA, Australia, and the Netherlands, will showcase their skills in Odisha during the FIH Pro League 2023-’24. With 20 matches scheduled, the tournament provides a platform for these teams to test their mettle.

The recent heartbreak of failing to qualify for the Paris Olympics looms large for India, especially considering their triumph in the FIH Nations Cup, seen as vital preparation for the Olympics. Now, they must find resilience and play with pride in the absence of an Olympic berth. While a World Cup quota is at stake for the Pro League winner, overcoming the aftermath of the Ranchi setback remains a formidable challenge. Head coach Janneke Schopman continues in her role amidst uncertainties, and the squad sees no major changes.

Expressing the team's ongoing pain, Schopman emphasizes the need to move forward and exhibit their prowess in Odisha. Despite the disappointment, she believes in the bright future of women's hockey in India, aiming for a top-five global ranking. The return of Vandana Katariya as vice-captain brings a boost, and the team reflects on missed opportunities during the qualifiers.

Veteran forward Vandana acknowledges the team's solid performance and addresses areas for improvement, particularly in scoring. Meanwhile, young talent Ishika Chaudhary, crushed by the dream of representing her country at the Olympics, focuses on learning and improvement for the future.

As the team grapples with goal-scoring challenges, Schopman stresses the need for individual accountability. The return of Gurjit Kaur adds a drag-flick option, but concerns persist about penalty corner depth in Indian women's hockey.

India's upcoming Pro League matches against China, the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States pose a stern test. Despite the adversity, the team aims to showcase its quality, adhering to a collective agreement to fight hard and play to their strengths. Schopman emphasizes the opportunity to challenge Olympic-bound teams and prove that India can compete at the highest level.

Feb. 3, 2024 12:31 p.m. 613

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