We now take a quick look at how the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams performed in major tournaments throughout the year.
Indian hockey had a mixed outing in 2023. From enduring a disappointing men’s Hockey World Cup campaign to winning medals at the Asian Games in Hangzhou as well as the men’s Asian Champions Trophy, it was a year of mixed fortunes for Indian hockey.
We now take a quick look at how the Indian men’s and women’s teams performed in major tournaments throughout the year:
FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup
The FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup was hosted in India for a second consecutive time. The previous edition of the tournament was held in 2018 when the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar hosted games. This time, apart from Bhubaneshwar, Birsa Munda International Stadium in Rourkela also hosted matches.
India had England, Spain and Wales in their group, and finished second in the group with seven points, meaning that they had to compete in a crossover match against New Zealand. India had to beat New Zealand whatsoever to make the quarter-finals but that was not meant to be. Once the scores 3-3 at full time, New Zealand went onto edge India 5-4 in the penalty shootouts.
India would however go onto thump Japan 8-0 in a 9th-16th playoff match, with Abhishek and Harmanpreet Singh scoring a couple of goals each.
The wait for a World Cup winners’ medal for India, however, continued. India have won only one title of the men’s Hockey World Cup and till date, it remains to be the only one.
Graham Reid steps down
Following their disappointing World Cup campaign, Graham Reid stepped down as men’s hockey team head coach in late January and in April, former South Africa player Craig Fulton took over as head coach. Paddy Upton also came in as mental conditioning coach and played a pivotal role in helping India strike gold at the Asian Games in Hangzhou as well as the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai.
The 5-1 win over Japan in the Asian Games final also helped India secure a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Of Asian Champions Trophy triumph and a non-selection issue
The India women’s hockey team, meanwhile, settled for bronze in the Asian Games competition, and by doing so, they missed out on a direct qualification for the Paris Olympics next year. India had South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong in their group, and remained unbeaten in the group stage, winning three matches and drawing one. India scored as many as 33 goals, conceding just one.
However, they were draw against hosts China in the semi-finals. China were too strong for India, winning the last four clash with a 4-0 margin. India would then go onto beat Japan 2-1 in the bronze medal match, ith Deepika striking in the fifth minute and Sushila Chanu scoring in the 30th minute.
India, however, failed to qualify for the FIH Women’s Pro League and that meant the women’s team lacked games against top-ranked sides. India did travel to Australia, Germany and South Africa on different tours, while also taking part in the 100th Anniversary tournament organised by the Spanish Hockey Federation.
India would go onto win the centenary tournament in Spain with a 3-0 tournament over the hosts, with Vandana Katariya, Monika and Udita scoring for the visitors.
Issues off the field also haunted the women’s hockey team. Rani Rampal, the former captain, was controversially excluded from the women’s hockey team for the Asian Games. Later in August, Rampal was announced as the coach of the India under-17 women’s team but felt that the way she was treated by Hockey India was not right.
Whatever happened with me wasn’t right in the last two years. I came back from an injury, was the top scorer at the National Games but wasn’t picked. The best person who can answer this is the chief coach or the selectors because I don’t know the answer,” she had said.
Rani has not played for India since January this year, when India took on South Africa for a four-match series.
In November this year, though, India would go onto win the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, thumping Japan 4-0 in the final. In the round-robin stage, India would finish on top of the standings with 15 points from five matches. In the semi-final against South Korea, Salima and Vaishnavi would score to help India clinch a 2-0 win, before romping home against Japan in the final.