Indian women’s hockey team started its defence of Asia Cup title with a convincing 9-0 win over Malaysia at Muscat in Oman on Friday. Other fancied teams – Korea, Japan and China – also made winning starts in the 8-nation tournament.
Helped by Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur and Sharmila Devi (2 goals each), India faced little difficulty in meeting the Malaysian challenge. While star drag flicker Gurjit Kaur could not score, her deep defence colleague, Deep Grace Ekka, was successful in converting a penalty corner while Lalremsiami and Monika also chipped in with field goals to complete the tally for India.
The match turned out to be a memorable encounter for Vandana Katariya as she was playing her 250thinternational game.
The 29-year-old forward has been an integral part of the Indian team since her Senior India debut in 2009 at the age of 17. Hailing from Roshanabad in Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, Vandana forms an experienced attacking line for the Indian team and has been part of India’s several significant feats including the title win at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, Asia Cup in 2017, Asian Games bronze in 2014 and silver in 2018 among several other achievements. The double Olympian grabbed the limelight during the Tokyo Olympics where she became the first Indian player to score a hat-trick of goals in Olympic Games match. She started her career playing for the Railways Sports Promotion Board and made it to the Indian Junior women’s team in 2006.
The versatile forward was the country’s top scorer at the FIH Hockey Junior World Cup Women 2013 in Monchengladbach, Germany, where India won a bronze medal. The same year saw Vandana being a part of the team that won the bronze medal at the 8th Women’s Asia Cup in Malaysia.
Looking back at the last decade with the Indian team, Vandana said that it’s been a great honour to represent the country. She said, “This is a special moment for me to achieve this incredible milestone of playing 250 matches for India. I am happy to have been a part of this team’s amazing growth over the past decade. It’s truly been a remarkable journey for all of us and I feel fortunate for all the support we have received from Hockey India as well as the fans. I thank my teammates for their constant support all these years, I thank all the coaches for making me a better player and I also thank my family for putting their faith in me and allowing me to pursue my dream of playing for India.”
Congratulating Vandana on achieving this incredible milestone, Gyanendro Ningombam, President, Hockey India, said, “I congratulate Vandana Katariya on completing 250 International Caps for India. She has been an inspirational figure in the Indian Women’s team and has been part of several incredible feats. I wish that she continues to perform her best in the upcoming tournaments and continue to contribute to Indian Women’s hockey.”
Elsewhere, former Chief Coach of India, Harendra Singh, is in Santiago with the US men’s hockey team playing in the Pan American Cup. It is probably his first international engagement after taking over the US men’s hockey team as its Chief Coach a couple of months ago. The team started on a winning note with a narrow 4-3 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
Pre-tournament favourites Argentina started with a flattering 10-0 win over Brazil while Canada, led by Kevin Pareira with Panesar brothers in the team, made short work of Mexico with a 11-1 verdict.
In the women’s event, also conducted simultaneously in San Tiago, Chile, Argentina started with a 6-0 win over Uruguay while the USA team scored at will to register 16-0 triumph over Trinidad and Tobago. Canada was not far behind in posting a big win. It defeated Peru 14-0.
In Africa Cup of Nations for men, Uganda had mixed fortunes so far. After losing 1-3 to Egypt, it recorded a 3-2 win over Namibia in the second game. In yet another game, Nigeria and Ghana split points with a 1-1 draw.
In the women’s edition, South Africa look favourites. The Springboks raced to 11-0 win over Uganda while Ghana beat Zambia 4-0. Kenya scored a hard fought 2-1 win over Nigeria after Zimbabwe and Namibia had played a 1-1 draw.
South Africa set aside the challenge of Kenya 4-0 in the first semi-final to await winners of the Zimbabwe-Ghana for the summit clash.