India needs another Gurjit for penalty corner sequences: Marijne

Last year when the Indian women’s hockey team finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, one Dutchman was as proud as the girls. Coach Sjoerd Marijne, in his four years with the team, had taken their skills and added strength and strategy to it, rounding off with the most important element — belief.

Sjoerd Marijne.

Sjoerd Marijne.
| Photo Credit: File Photo

It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, that the former India coach’s excitement at India’s Commonwealth Games bronze medal could be felt all the way from Netherlands. “I am very, very happy with the bronze, defeating New Zealand. They deserved it and I feel they should have, in fact, won the match in regular time because they were so much better. But then to concede in the end must have been a huge mental setback for them and to come back from that to win in shoot-outs shows their toughness,” Marijne said.

What made it tougher was another controversial shoot-out less than 48 hours ago. Marijne, though, believes the Indians are on the right track. “For me, the good thing is that the girls are getting dominant against other teams, they are taking charge and going on the attack, which is very good. The next step is to consistently convert those attacks into scoring chances and get the goals,” he said.

Getting more and more difficult

The one big concern, both at the CWG and at the World Cup, was India’s inability to convert penalty corners, but Marijne defended drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur.

“I think it is not fair to blame Gurjit. She is world-class, there is no doubt of that. But it is getting more and more difficult to score from penalty corners for all teams. The runners are getting better and with the goalkeeper covering one angle and the runners the other, it leaves hardly any space to take the shot without getting dangerous,” he countered.

The only solution: Develop another world-class drag-flicker. “It is important to get another Gurjit. We have been grooming Deep Grace Ekka for the last couple of years, but she is not at the same level as Gurjit. Having two castles during penalty corners will make it difficult to guess which one will take the shot and give a better chance to score. It is becoming difficult for everyone,” he explained.

The challenge

Asked about India’s chances at the Asian Games next year, Marijne is confident of the team going all the way. “The challenge now is to get more and more competitive matches. India will not be at the Pro League next year, specially because China will play the Pro League and they will be India’s biggest threat. So, that needs to be worked out. But they are the highest ranked Asian team now, so why not,” he hoped.


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