Indian team strong contender for junior women’s World Cup gold: Sushila Chanu

New Delhi: Veteran India halfback Sushila Chanu feels that the junior women’s hockey team for the World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa, beginning on Friday, has a great chance of doing well, given that it’s a “tight-knit group” with an “excellent understanding between each other on the field”.

India have been clubbed with Germany, Malaysia and Wales in Pool D of the 15-team tournament and will begin their campaign against Wales on April 2. They will play Germany on April 3.

Speaking about India’s chances, Chanu, who is in the senior core group, said, “This is a really tight-knit group with excellent understanding between each other on the field, and off the field as well. They have trained together as a group for a really long time, and even played practice matches against the senior women’s team in the national camp at SAI Bengaluru and in Bhubaneswar in which they have contested well.

“The group also consists of players who have represented the senior team on the big stage, like the Olympics. These reasons lead me to believe that the Indian junior women’s team is a strong contender for gold in the upcoming World Cup,” said Chanu.

Chanu rose to prominence in the national setup following India’s bronze-medal finish in the 2013 women’s Junior World Cup. In fact, she was the captain during the memorable outing.

Recalling fond memories of the time she led the team to the World Cup at Monchengladbach, Germany in 2013, Chanu said, “We had the time of our lives during that Junior World Cup campaign. We were so young and carefree at the time, but each one of us was completely focussed on using that competition as a platform to improve on our skills individually, and as a team. Our communication within the team was so strong at the time. It was one of the key reasons behind our success in the Junior World Cup.”

The team had secured bronze after overcoming England in penalty shootouts in the playoff match. Speaking about the pivotal game that shaped her career at the time, Sushila said, “Winning that medal was the biggest achievement of my life. I will never forget that game and that moment when we secured victory. The penalty shootouts were going on, and everyone in the team was huddled together in the centre of the pitch and we were all praying together. After winning the match that day, we were all overjoyed. That campaign was truly unforgettable.”

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