Tata Open Maharashtra | Top-seeds Bopanna-Sharan advance to Doubles Finals

PUNE, 04 January 2019: Day Five of the Tata Open Maharashtra saw the doubles top-seed pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan advance to the Final as they beat the Italian-Croatian pairing of Simone Bolelli and Ivan Dodig 6-3, 3-6, 15-13 in a thrilling Semi-Final encounter held here at the Mhalunge-Balewadi Tennis Stadium on Friday.

The Indian pairing started the match by grabbing the opening game and keeping their serve intact while Bolelli-Dodig also did the same to make it 1-1. Sharan utilised his serve to good effect as he won the next game to put his team 2-1 ahead. Dodig served in the next game with his partner Bolelli providing good support at the net and winning their second game. Bopanna used his experience in the next game to win his service game while Simone Bolelli showed why his team reached the Semi-Finals as he made it 3-3.

It was Sharan who made it 4-3, but the eighth game was the one where the Croatian Dodig could not save double break points and gave an opening to the top-seeds as they led 5-3. In what turned out to be the last game of the first set, it was the 38-year-old Bopanna who ended up serving a double fault but recovered in time to save a break point, and then take the set 6-3.

The second set started with the Bolelli winning the first service game and giving his Croatian partner some much needed confidence after his serve got broken in the first set. The consequent two games saw both Bopanna and Dodig holding on to their serve but it was Sharan whose serve was broken in the fourth game which gave Bolelli-Dodig a 3-1 advantage. Bolelli held his serve to put more pressure on the Indians which was visible in the next game when Bopanna put a ball long when he should have scored a winner.

Eventually the Indian pair saved a break point to win the game as scoreboard read 4-2. Dodig did not repeat the mistakes of the first set and held his serve to make it 5-2 but Bopanna-Sharan saved a break point again to stay in the set as Sharan served to make it 5-3. The top-seeds then did save a set point off Bolelli’s but lost the deciding point of the set which meant the match went into the Super Tiebreak.

The final act of the match saw the top-seeds go 2-5 behind. But combining their experience and deft touches, Bopanna-Sharan pair levelled it at 5-5. With Bolelli-Dodig seeming to have run away with the match at 9-7 it was the Indians who saved two match points to keep their hopes alive.

The highlight of the Super Tiebreak was the back-hand winner by Bopanna to make it 9-9 and then backed it up with another winner to make it 10-9. With Sharan serving for the match, it was Bopanna who scuffed his return to give their opponents another opening at 10-10. Both the pairs had chances to finish the match but it was only at 13-13 that Dodig hit a long return which gave Sharan the chance to serve for the match and the 32-year-old held to advance to the finale by a 15-13 win in the Super Tiebreak.

 

“It was a tough situation for us when we were down two match points but we always try to not change too much and stick to our plans. It is important to have the consistency in our game and it worked today,” said a delighted Sharan after the hard fought win.

The Singles competition will also see two Semi-Finals to be played today as Ivo Karlovic takes on Steve Darcis while top-seed Kevin Anderson will play Defending Champion Gilles Simon in the last match of the penultimate day.

Star Sports launches India’s First Kannada Sports Channel

Mumbai, January 02, 2019: Star Sports – India’s leading sports broadcaster – has launched Star Sports 1 Kannada, the country’s first dedicated Kannada sports channel. Star Sports aims to provide quality viewing experience in local languages for its fans across India. Earlier this year, Star Sports introduced India’s first Telugu sports channel – Star Sports 1 Telugu – paving the way formoreregional sports channels after the successful launch ofStar Sports 1 Tamil in 2017.

Celebrating the spirit of the Kannadiga culture is at the heart of the launch of Star Sports 1 Kannada. Karnataka as a region, has shown very distinctive viewing habits and an affinity to differentiated language content. This has enabled Star Sports to create a unique, engaging and most importantly, viewer centric offering for the southern state.

Star Sports 1 Kannada, with its rich line-up of sports properties, will help bring Kannadiga sports fans closer to their favourite sports. Now on-air, the broadcast calendar includes live events such as Bengaluru Bulls’ panga in the VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 6 finals as they eye their first ever VIVO PKL trophy. The fans can also enjoy Karnataka’s domestic cricket matches, Hero Indian Super League, Premier Badminton League, upcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, Khelo India Youth Games, VIVO IPL and a host of other sporting events being broadcast in Kannada throughout the year. Star Sports 1 Kannada aims to provide fans with region specific quality sports content allowing them to connect with their heroes.

Star India spokesperson said, “Sports is more engaging, enjoyable and thrilling, when it is watched in a language one speaks. Our strong presence in Karnataka has helped us understand how Kannadiga sports fans like to consume sports content. Kannadigas possess an inherent sporting quality of resilience and an undying desire to always win. Star Sports 1 Kannada, with its extensive line-up of popular sports content, is a resolute step towards bringing these Kannadiga fans closer to their favourite games and heroes.”

A promo campaign was launched to support the launch of Star Sports 1 Kannada. Keeping true to essence of the Kannadiga culture, the promo focuses on watching our sport in our language, and the determination and never say die attitude of a kannadiga.

Star Sports 1 Kannada will be available on leading DTH/cable operators across Karnataka as well as rest of India soon.

Fans of Bengaluru Bulls can cheer for their favourite team in their favourite language as they raid for glory in the final panga of VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 6. The game will be live on Star Sports 1 Kannada on Saturday, January 05, 2019, 8 pm onwards.

Upcoming marquee LIVE sporting action

SportEventDates
KabaddiVIVO Pro Kabaddi – Playoffs and finalsJanuary 03 & 05, 2019
National sportsKhelo India Youth Games 2019January 2019
FootballAFC Asian Cup UAE 2019January – February 2019
BadmintonPremier Badminton LeagueJanuary 2019
CricketIndia’s Tour of New ZealandJanuary – February 2019
CricketAustralia’s Tour of IndiaFebruary – March 2019
CricketVIVO IPL 2019TBC
CricketICC Cricket World Cup 2019May – July 2019
FootballHero Indian Super LeagueFebruary 2019 onwards
KabaddiVIVO Pro Kabaddi 2019 (Season 7)July 2019


Bopanna-Divij, Ramanathan start with contrasting wins

PUNE January 1 2019: Top-seeded pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan registered a dominating first round win on Day Two of Tata Open Maharashtra here at Mhalunge Balewadi Tennis Stadium on Tuesday. The Indian pair outclassed Radu Albot-Malek Jaziri pair 6-1, 6-2 to live up to their top billing at India’s only ATP World Tour event.

Playing on Court 1, the Asian Games gold-medal winning duo took less than an hour to move to the second round dispatching the Moldova-Tunisian pair. In second round,Bopanna-Divij will take on Indo-Mexican pair of L Paes/ M. Reyes-Varela that beat D. Marrero/ H. Podlipnik-Castillo 6-3, 6-4.

In the third match at the Centre Court, perhaps the most exciting one of the Day 2, Ramkumar Ramanathan took on Spain’s Marcel Granollers in what was their second ATP Tour meeting.

Granollers broke Ramanthan in the first game itself. The Indian came back breaking his opponent’s first serve too. But Granollers took the initiative breaking Ramanathan second time and maintained his grip on the 1st set winning it 6-4 in 35 minutes.  

But Ramanathan was determined to stay alive. With a more controlled game, the 24-year old sealed the second set 6-4 breaking the 32-year old in the tenth game to take the match to decider.

Ramanathan was charged after winning the second set and continued his momentum in the third. What defined Ramanathan’s form was the stunning cross-court in the fourth game to break the Spanish player and take a 3-1 lead in the decider. The two players held their serves until Ramanathan sealed the set and match at 6-3. Ramanathan will now take on fourth-seeded Jaziri in 2nd round on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, India’s Saketh Myneni, who entered the main draw after two gruelling qualifying matches, withdrew due to a foot injury. Thiago Monteiro came in his place a lucky loser to face France’s Benoit Paire. The fifth-seeded Frenchman got the better of Monteiro in straight sets 7-6(5), 6-3 with 18 aces.

In the first match at the Centre Court, Ivo Karlovic got the better of Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5. The match between one of the youngest players and the oldest at the event lasted for an hour and 14 minutes where the 39-year old Croatian hit 13 aces enroute the straight sets win over the 18-year old qualifier from Canada.

Karlovic broke Auger-Aliassime in the fifth game and held on to his serve to lead 4-2 and eventually won the first set 6-4. Auger-Aliassime put up a stronger show in the second but Karlovic broke him in the 11th game and dished out three aces in the final game to seal the second set 7-5 and the match.

RESULTS: UPDATED TILL 9:30 PM

Men’s Singles – 1st Round

(Q) S Bolelli d D Istomin 6-4, 6-4

I Ivashka d H Hurkacz 6-7 (9), 6-2, 603

I Karlovic d (Q) F Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5

(5) B Paire d (L) T Monteiro 7-6(5), 6-3

J Vesely d (Q) A Hoang 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

(W) R Ramanathan d M Granollers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3

Men’s Doubles – 1st Round

D Molchanov/ Zelenay d P andujar/ R Carballes Baena 6-1,6-4
(1) R Bopanna/ D Sharan d R Albot/ M Jaziri 6-1, 6-2

S. Bolelli (ITA) / I. Dodig d [3] M. Arevalo / J. Cerretani 6-4, 5-7, 10-7

L Paes/ / M. Reyes-Varela d D. Marrero/ H. Podlipnik-Castillo 6-3, 6-4

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 02, 2019
CENTRE COURT start 3:00 pm
E. Gulbis (LAT) vs [2] H. Chung (KOR) 
Not Before 5:00 pm
[1] K. Anderson (RSA) vs L. Djere (SRB) or [WC] A. Kadhe (IND) 
[3] G. Simon (FRA) vs I. Ivashka (BLR) 
Not Before 8:00 pm
[WC] R. Ramanathan (IND) vs [4] M. Jaziri (TUN)

COURT 1 start 3:00 pm
E. Donskoy (RUS) vs I. Karlovic (CRO) 
J. Vesely (CZE) vs [5] B. Paire (FRA) 
[PR] S. Darcis (BEL) vs M. Mmoh (USA) 
After Possible Rest – L. Bambridge (GBR) / J. O’Mara (GBR) vs [WC] N. Balaji (IND) / A. Kadhe (IND)

COURT 2 start 5:00 pm
[Q] S. Bolelli (ITA) vs [7] J. Munar (ESP) 
D. Molchanov (UKR) / I. Zelenay (SVK) vs [4] G. Granollers (ESP) / M. Granollers (ESP)

UP Yoddha thrash Dabang Delhi 45-33 in third eliminator

In a one-sided encounter, UP Yoddha hammered Dabang Delhi 45-33in eliminator 3 of Vivo Pro Kabaddi League season 6. Prashant Kumar Rai was the star of the show as he scored 13 raid points and got able support from Rishank Devadiga who chipped in with 8 points. For Dabang Delhi, it was a disappointing night as their defence couldn’t muster enough points. Naveen Kumar top scored for Delhi but couldn’t save his team from crashing out of the competition. UP Yoddha will now play Gujarat Fortunegiants on Thursday to determine who will play Bengaluru Bulls in the final.

UP Yoddha got off to a flying start when Prashanth Kumar Rai made a super raid in the second minute. Dabang Delhi were reeling under the shock as they suffered an all out as earl as the third minute. UP Yoddha led 11-1 after three minutes and it looked like Dabang Delhi won’t recover from the early onslaught.

Chandran Ranjit made a two-point raid in the 7th minute as Dabang Delhi trailed 6-13 but UP Yoddha enjoyed the upper hand as after 10 minutes they led 17-8 . In the 14th minute UP Yoddha further asserted their supremacy as they inflicted another all out to lead 25-10. At the end of the first half, UP Yoddha led 27-13 and it looked like game over for Dabang Delhi.

Dabang Delhi tried to make a comeback in the second half and inflicted an all out in the 24th minute to trail 21-31. But Prashant Kumar Rai extinguished all their hopes of a comeback with a super raid in the 27th minute as UP Yoddha led 36-22. Another all out was inflicted in the second half as UP Yoddha were in complete command of the match.

The last few minutes were all about Dabang Delhi bringing some respectability to the score line. Naveen Kumar got a super 10 for the losing side but his effort went in vain as Delhi crashed out of the tournament.

Fans can catch live action of Vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 6 matches in the second qualifier on Thursday i.e. 3rdJanuary 2019, 7:30 pm onwards, on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Gold, Star Sports First and Hotstar.

Match Awards –

  • THE VIVO PERFECT RAIDER OF THE MATCH –  PRASHANTH KUMAR RAO, JERSEY 4, UP YODDHA
  • THE TATA ACE DEFENDEDR OF THE MATCH – NITESH KUMAR, JERSEY 2, UP YODDHA
  • THE MOMENT OF THE MATCH – PRASHANTH KUMAR RAO, JERSEY 4, UP YODDHA
  • HDFC LIFE WINNING CAPTAIN OF THE MATCH – RISHANK DEVADIGA, JERSEY 7, UP YODDHA

Bengaluru Bulls thrash Gujarat Fortunegiants 41-29, enter the final

Bengaluru Bulls produced a solid second half performance as they thrashed Gujarat Fortunegiants 41-29 in the first qualifier of Vivo Pro Kabaddi League Season 6 to seal a spot in the final. Pawan Sehrawat continued his fine run of form and top scored for the Bengaluru Bulls with 13 raid points. Captain Rohit Kumar had an outstanding all-round game and scored 11 points for Bengaluru Bulls Sachin got yet another super 10 for Gujarat Fortunegiants and was ably supported by Prapanjan who scored 5raid points. While Bengaluru Bulls have qualified for the final, Gujarat still have a chance to make it when they play in the second qualifier against the winner between UP Yoddha and Dabang Delhi.

Pawan Sehrawat opened Bengaluru Bulls’ account with a running hand touch in the second minute while Sachin got a two-point raid for Gujarat Fortunegiants. It was Sachin who kept the Fortunegiants in the initial period of the match by picking bonus and raid points.

After seven minutes of play both teams were level on 7 points apiece as Prapanjan made a successful raid for Gujarat Fortunegiants.  Gujarat’s famed defence was having a quiet first half and took 11 minutes to score their first tackle point.

It was an extremely cagey affair with both teams playing with a bit of caution. Bengaluru Bulls were reduced to just three men when substitute Sumit Singh made a crucial do-or-die raid. At the end of the first half, Gujarat Fortunegiants held a slender one-point advantage to lead 14-13.

The first part of the second half was a close affair yet again with the biggest surprise being Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar struggling to get a tackle point. Gujarat Fortunegiants inflicted an all out in the 33rd minute to lead 26-20.

Pawan Sehrawat came up with a terrific super raid as he picked up three points to bring Bengaluru Bulls back in the game. Sehrawat followed it up with another super raid as Bengaluru Bulls inflicted an all out to lead 29-26.

With less than four minutes to go Bengaluru Bulls led 32-26 and looked in control of the match. Bengaluru Bulls inflicted an all out in the 39th minute to ensure Bengaluru Bulls’ victory and a place in the final of the season 6.

Fans can catch live action of Vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 6 matches in the second qualifier on Thursday i.e. 3rdJanuary 2019, 7:30 pm onwards, on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Gold, Star Sports First and Hotstar.

Match Awards –

  • THE VIVO PERFECT RAIDER OF THE MATCH –  PAWAN SEHRAWAT, JERSEY 17, BENGALURU BULLS
  • THE TATA ACE DEFENDEDR OF THE MATCH – ROHIT KUMAR, JERSEY 9, BENGALURU BULLS
  • THE MOMENT OF THE MATCH – PAWAN SEHRAWAT, JERSEY 17, BENGALURU BULLS
  • HDFC LIFE WINNING CAPTAIN OF THE MATCH – ROHIT KUMAR, JERSEY 9, BENGALURU BULLS

India’s top junior Yoshna Singh has won the Scottish junior Open squash

Edinburgh (Scotland): One of India’s top junior, Yoshna Singh made it a memorable year-end for herself by winning the U-17 title in the prestigious Scottish Junior Open squash here late on Sunday.

Seeded 5/8, this Maharashtra girl defeated Sze Yu Lee of Australia 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 13-11 in an engrossing final. Yoshna had earlier beaten the top seed Lucie Stefanoni of USA in the quarterfinal to exhibit her good touch. In the semi-final she had gone past a Scottish girl Lucy Murchie in what turned out to be a tough five-game tussle where she came back from a game down.

AITA announces Davis cup and Fed cup team

AITA announced team for upcoming Davis Cup and Fed cup tie to be played in February 2019.

Davis Cup team will comprise of

  1. Prajnesh Gunneswaran
  2. Ramkumar Ramanathan
  3. Saketh Myneni
  4. Rohan Bopanna
  5. Divij Sharan
  6. Sasi Kumar Mukund (Reserve)

3 young players are also selected for exposure during National Camp (22nd to 30th Jan 2019) to practice with team

  1. Sumit Nagal
  2. Arjun Kadhe
  3. Siddharth Vishwakarma

India will host Italy on 1st and 2nd February 2018 in Kolkata. Mr Mahesh Bhupathi will be the Captain, Mr Zeeshan Ali will be the Coach and the two physios will also be with the team.

The following players were selected to represent India in the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group I event that will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan in the week of 4th Feb 2019:-

1. Ankita Raina 2. Karman Thandi 3. Pranjala Yadlappalli 4. Prarthana Thombare 5. Rutuja Bhosale

Mr Vishal Uppal will be the Captain and Ms Ankita Bhambri will be the Coach of the Team. The team will assemble in Delhi on 27th Jan for a 3 day camp.

PKL: Dabang Delhi staged second-half comeback to eliminate Bengal Warriors

Dabang Delhi came up with a strong second half performance to beat Bengal Warriors 39-28 in the second eliminator of Vivo Pro Kabaddi League season 6.  Naveen Kumar and Chandran Ranjit led from the front as they combined to score 19 raid points. In defence, Ravinder Pahal scored four tackle points. It was a slow performance in second half by Bengal Warriors which led to their downfall. Maninder Singh top scored with 8 points but just didn’t get enough support from other raiders.

Chandran Ranjit opened Dabang Delhi’s account in the second minute with a successful raid. Maninder Singh picked up a couple of raid points as after two minutes Bengal Warriors leveled the match at 2-2. Bengal Warriors inflicted an all out in the 9th minute to lead 7-4. Bengal Warriors held the edge in the first half with Maninder Singh picking up raid points at regular intervals.

In the 15th minute Maninder made a two-point raid to give Bengal 12-8 lead but Chandran Ranjit replied with a  two-point raid of his own as Dabang Delhi trailed 10-12. Dabang Delhi forced a super tackle in the 16th minute to level the match at 12-12. Bengal Warriors came back strongly to inflict an all out in the 19th minute as they led 17-12. At the end of the first half, Bengal Warriors led 18-12.

Dabang Delhi made a strong start to the second half as they picked three raid points in the 21st minute to trail 15-18. Bengal Warriors were in the lead for the first part of the second half as after 25 minutes they led 20-19. Naveen Kumar made a brilliant raid in the 28th minute to give Dabang Delhi 24-20 lead. In the 32nd minute Dabang Delhi inflicted an all out to lead 33-23.

Fans can catch live action of Vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 6 matches when Gujarat Fortunegiants play Bengaluru Bulls while UP Yoddha take on Dabang Delhi on Monday i.e. 31st December 2018, 7:30 pm onwards, on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Gold, Star Sports First and Hotstar.

Match Awards –

  • THE VIVO PERFECT RAIDER OF THE MATCH –  NAVEEN KUMAR, JERSEY 19, DABANG DELHI KC
  • THE TATA ACE DEFENDEDR OF THE MATCH – RAVINDER PAHAL, JERSEY 6, DABANG DELHI KC
  • THE MOMENT OF THE MATCH – NAVEEN KUMAR, JERSEY 19, DABANG DELHI KC
  • HDFC LIFE WINNING CAPTAIN – JOGINDER SINGH NARWAL, JERSEY 8, DABANG DELHI KC

PKL: UP Yoddha stuns U Mumba in first Elimination match

UP Yoddha produced a terrific all-round performance to knock out favourites U Mumba in the first eliminator of Vivo Pro Kabaddi League season 6. Yoddha won 34-29 and were in control for most of the match. In front of a packed crowd in Kochi, where PKL made its debut, it was the team from UP that came out on top. Nitesh Kumar came up with one of the best defensive performances and scored 8 points to lead UP to victory. UP Yoddha’s defence scored 18 tackle points on a night where they tamed U Mumba’s star raider Siddharth Desai. Desai scored just seven raid points but all credit to the Yoddha to contain him. Shrikant Jadhav and Prashant Kumar Rai combined to score 9 crucial raid points in UP’s win. 

Both teams made a solid start and were on equal footing for the first five minutes. Shrikant Jadhav and Siddharth Desai picked up the raid points for their teams. It was 5-5 after five minutes but UP Yoddha switched gears then. In the 8th minute they inflicted an all out to leads 11-7. U Mumba were missing the spark and were a bit lacklustre in the first half. At the end of the first half Yoddha’s led 18-15 and it was anyone’s game.

UP Yoddha continued their fine form in the second half as well. Their defence did a fine job on Desai and Rohit Balliyan. Shrikant Jadhav picked up a two-point raid in the 27th minute to give UP Yoddha 25-18 lead. The second half followed the same pattern as the first with UP defence in solid form. Jeeva Kumar and Nitesh Kumar didn’t allow too many points and made crucial tackles throughout the match. Roshan Devadiga and Prashant Kumar Rai picked up raid points at crucial intervals. 

Fans can catch live action of Vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 6 matches when the playoffs get underway on Monday i.e. 31st December 2018, 7:30 pm onwards, on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Gold, Star Sports First and Hotstar.

Match Awards –

  • THE VIVO PERFECT RAIDER OF THE MATCH –  Siddharth Sirish Desai, Jersey 8, U Mumba
  • THE TATA ACE DEFENDEDR OF THE MATCH – Nitesh Kumar, Jersey 2, UP Yoddha
  • THE MOMENT OF THE MATCH – Jeeva Kumar, Jersey 6, UP Yoddha
  • HDFC LIFE WINNING CAPTAIN – Rishank Devadiga, Jersey 7, UP Yoddha

Indian Women’s Hockey Team do not fear top-ranked teams anymore, says team Skipper Rani

New Delhi, 28 December 2018:  Looking back at the year 2018 that saw Indian Women’s Hockey Team win a historic Silver Medal at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang and Silver at Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, Skipper Rani emphasized that her team no longer fears world’s top teams. “Though we would have preferred to win Gold Medal at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang as well as the Asian Champions Trophy, I believe overall, we had a good outing in 2018. Beating England 2-1 at the Commonwealth Games, a 1-1 draw against them at their home turf during the Women’s World Cup in London and a low-scoring 0-1 loss to Australia in the Semi-final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has given the team tremendous confidence and a self-belief that we can give top teams a run for their money in big-ticket tournaments. We are no longer considered an underdog team by our opponents and that’s our biggest takeaway from 2018,” emphasized the Skipper from Haryana.

While their good show at the Women’s World Cup in London where they made the Quarter Finals for the first time in four decades spurred their World Ranking to career-best World No.9, Rani feels the Indian team has great potential to improve further in future events. “The brighter side of 2018 was our U-18 team doing well at the Youth Olympic Games where they won a Silver Medal. With fresh talent coming into the core group, the seniors too want to improve their individual performance to stay relevant to the team. There is healthy competition within the core group and the pool of players is bigger now with a good mix of youngsters and seniors who have played together for more than four years. I’m quite confident if we continue to improve at the pace we are at this moment, we stand a good chance of climbing up the World Ranking further,” she said.

She also added that working with an elite hockey star like Glenn Turner who was invited by Hockey India to conduct a special camp for forwards has helped the team tremendously.

“In December, we had a special coaching camp for strikers where we worked under Australian great Glenn Turner. He gave critical inputs after watching us play closely. Though he did not drastically change how we play, his detailing and inputs were extremely helpful in positioning of forwards within the striking circle. We had struggled in this area during our past events, missing scoring opportunities. Now when we return to the National Camp, we will further ensure what we learnt from him is implemented,” she said.

Speaking of the year 2019, Rani said the team’s ultimate goal will be to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “We will be reporting to the National Camp in the first week of January and begin our preparations in this crucial Olympic cycle where we will be playing Olympic Qualifiers. Though personally I still regret not winning the Gold Medal at the Asian Games which would have earned us direct qualification, I believe the result has only motivated and instilled a fighting spirit in us,” Rani concluded