Team peaking at right time: Rani Rampal

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) The Indian womens hockey team recently put up a brilliant performance at the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo, defeating hosts Japan 2-1 in the final to win the competition. And captain Rani Rampal seems extremely pleased with the way her team played against top sides like Australia, China and Japan.

"It was incredible to remain unbeaten throughout the Olympic Test Event. The hard work put in by all the players in the various training camps ahead of the tournament paid dividends. A victory in this event gives us a lot of confidence ahead of the tour of England and the FIH Olympic qualifiers," Rani said.

The Indian team started the tournament with a 2-1 victory over hosts and world No. 14 Japan, before playing out a 2-2 draw with world No. 2 Australia in their second match. India then drew 0-0 with World no. 11 China in their last round-robin match.

Rani was all praise for drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur, who was the competition's top-scorer with three goals.

"Gurjit has improved immensely in the last couple of years. She was the top-scorer at the FIH Women's Series Finals in Hiroshima this year as well as at the Olympic Test Event. Gurjit is a vital player for us as a drag-flicker and I am delighted to see her in form ahead of important tournaments," Rani said.

The skipper also said that the side is a well-settled unit now and all the players are extremely clear about their roles. The team is peaking at the right time and couldn't have been in better form going into the FIH Olympic qualifiers in November.

"After wonderful performances in Hiroshima and Tokyo, our team consists of players who are very clear about their roles, and perform them industriously on the field. We have gained momentum at the right time and have to keep improving our skills as the team approaches the FIH Olympic qualifiers," Rani said.

The striker from Shahbaad, who was named best player at the FIH Women's Series Finals in Hiroshima, has been leading India for more than two years now.

World No 10. India could not seal a direct place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a heart-breaking loss to Japan in the Asian Games final in 2018. However, the team is confident of achieving the goal in the FIH Olympic qualifiers.

"We still have to improve in certain areas, but the team is confident of booking a place in the Tokyo Olympics. Our preparations have been excellent so far and we have to just keep building on our game.

"The Olympic Test Event was very helpful to understand the level of our game as we played against some strong teams, including World No. 2 Australia. Now our only aim is to qualify for the Olympics and I feel we are on the right track," Rani signed off.

--IANS

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