Indian women hockey team created history by winning gold medal in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. Inspired by the feat, Shahrukh Khan starrer-bollywood movie ‘Chak De India’ hit the screens in 2007. That was the moment when 12-year-old Rani got motivated to repeat the 2002 CWG feat one-day. Very next year, she got her name in the annals of the Indian hockey history book by becoming the youngest to don senior women team jersey, at the age of 13-and-half, during the 2008 Olympic qualifiers.
The first exposure was enough for the Shahabad-girl to cement her place in the Indian team. In last one decade Rani, a daughter of a cart puller, contributed by making India win number of tournaments, including qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics—Indian women made it after a gap of 36 years.
Named in the ‘World All Star’ team in 2010, Asian Games medal, Arjuna award, job with Sports Authority of India, 200 plus international matches and an opportunity to lead the national side Rani has almost achieved everything. But despite all these achievements, one thing still haunts the current skipper— ‘Missing CWG glory.’
Since her debut, Rani, has been part of the three successive CWG squads —2010 New Delhi, 2014 Glasgow and 2018 Gold Coast. But unfortunately, Indian women missed the podium in all three.
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“Since the time, I made it to the Indian team, I wanted to replicate the 2002 CWG performance. But unfortunately, I couldn’t do it,” says Rani. “This time in the Gold Coast medal was within the reach and the way we played against England (world ranked two), we thought this is the time we can repeat the Manchester performance. But somehow we lost the momentum in the semifinals against Australia (0-1).”
India lost the play off match against England, whom they had defeated in the league stage, and missed the podium.
“Even today, after two-and-half months, when I recall or somebody starts discussing Gold Coast matches, I get upset and in a fear that I might lose control over my emotions and start crying, I change the topic. But we have to live with a reality that we missed a golden opportunity. Now a medal and that too gold in the next Asian Games can only make up for the loss.”
Till date Indian women have only managed to win gold in the 1982 Asian Games, when the women hockey was first introduced . They played another final in the 1998, losing to South Korea. In the previous edition Indian eves won bronze.
“I know winning gold in the Asian Games will not be an easy task. But we have the capability of getting better of Asian top teams—South Korea and China. In the recent past, we have done that. So, we are confident of doing it again,” says Rani. “Top podium finish in Indonesia will give us a direct entry to 2020 Tokyo Olympics and it will be a help for us to prepare better for the Olympics.”
Indian women recently went on a Spain tour for a five-match Test series and played a draw (winning two , lost two and drew one). The series was part of the preparations for the forthcoming World Cup in England and Asian Games.
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“We are playing with the same combinations for quite some time and the Asian countries are watching us, so to add some surprise element during the Asian Games, we tried some new combinations during our recent Test series against Spain. On the basis of the results of particular combinations in Spain, we will make changes in our playing formation for the Asian Games and hopefully we will get good results,” says Rani. “Before the Asian Games, World Cup will also be an important event for us and right now we are focusing on it.”
In the group stage, India (ranked 10th) will play against world ranked two England and seventh ranked USA.
Know Rani Rampal
Age: 23; Born: December 4, 1994, Shahbad
Job: Assistant coach with Sports Authority of India
Coach: Dronacharya awardee Baldev Singh
International matches: 212
2008: made her international debut. At the age of 13, she was the youngest Indian player to make it to the senior women team during the Olympic qualifiers in March 2008.
2009: Champion’s Challenge Tournament held in Kazan Russia. Scoring four goals in the finals to help India winning the tournament. She was adjudged “The Top Goal Scorer” and the “Young Player of the Tournament”]
2010: In the World Cup she scored a total of seven goals which placed India in the ninth position, best performance since 1978. Her performance got her ‘Best Young Player of the Tournament’ award in the world cup. She was also included the Asian All Star team and in the Women All Star Team.
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2013: Lead India to win bronze in the junior world cup. And she was also awarded ‘Player of the Tournament’.
2014: Won bronze in the Asian Games
2016: She was part of the Indian team that competed in the Rio Olympics. She was also conferred with the Arjuna Award same year.
2017: Led India to Asia Cup title.
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