New Delhi: Riding high on their recent clean sweep against Malaysia, the Ritu Rani-led Indian womens hockey team is headed off to Edinburgh (Scotland) from the national capital today for the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games starting July 23.
India, who handed Malaysia a 6-0 series whitewash in the tune-up to the CWG, will take on Canada in their first game on July 24 followed by a head-on with New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa.
Midfielder Ritu, with 179 caps, is upbeat about the teams` showing with vice-captain and defender Deepika Kumari is also positive about the 16-member team doing well. "The team is showing major signs of improvement and is well in rhythm as we underwent plenty of training camps including the Malaysian Tour, keeping the team well in shape. The success of the Malaysian tour is definitely a plus point as the junior team members are motivated more than ever and will help them gain experience to take on bigger challenges, said captain Ritu.
"Last time we could not make it to the semi-finals but this year we are looking at a podium finish and are positive about doing so," she added.
The team has been seen practicing rigorously at NSNIS, Patiala during their preparatory camp and will be continuing the training sessions in Edinburgh and Glasgow till their opening game.
"The preparatory camp went really well and the Malaysian tour was a big boost for the team. It was seen that the players are getting better with their possession but we do have to look out for the fact that `where we turn the ball` should be worked upon more," said chief coach Neil Hawgood.
"The challenging part will be to make it in the top two and this time we are positive to make it to the semi-finals," he added. The CWG will see a total of 10 teams divided into two groups. India is placed along with Canada, New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa in Group A.