National Women's Hockey League Will Give The Girls A Chance To Prove Themselves, Says Asunta Lakra

The National Women's Hockey League made its grand debut last month, promising an electrifying display of talent and teamwork as India's top state teams converged in Ranchi for the maiden edition. Former India captain Asunta Lakra speaks on how she thinks this league will boost women's hockey, how India are trying to recuperate from Paris Olympics debacle and the rise of the juniors.
National Women's Hockey League

National Women's Hockey League (Photo credit: Hockey India)

The National Women's Hockey League made its grand debut last month, promising an electrifying display of talent and teamwork as India's top state teams converged in Ranchi for the maiden edition. Former India captain Asunta Lakra speaks on how she thinks this league will boost women's hockey, how India are trying to recuperate from Paris Olympics debacle and the rise of the juniors.
Excerpts:
How do you as a former player see the National Women's Hockey League?
It is a great initiative from Hockey India to flag off the National Women's Hockey League. When we were playing, there was just the Nationals and at other times, there was no other tournament for the girls. But now, they have an opportunity to prove themselves and be in a competitive environment. This is helping the players improve and help them move ahead in their careers. For us selectors too, we will have a big pool in hand to select from.
From your playing days till now, what are the major differences you notice, especially in women's hockey?
There definitely have been a lot of positive changes from the time we played till now, but there is still some way to go. Due to fewer competitions, hockey wasn't as visible as it should have been but that is improving now. In the Nationals, players participate for one or two games and then leave. But with the NWHL, there will be a string of matches and that will help them analyse their own performances, besides the coaches as well as the selectors, who will be able to judge better.
Speaking of the Paris Olympics, where do you think the Indian women's team fell short?
Every year, we build a core group of 33 senior players, who are trained throughout the year. In case one of them gets injured, the core is broken. Then we have to play someone who is probably not up to the mark as the one who is injured. That breaks down communication and understanding within the team. After not qualifying for Paris, Hockey India thus decided to also build a group of backup players so that we don't fall short of players.
You have played with Savita Punia and she was leading the Indian team till very recently. As a former captain, how do you see her leadership?
I think not just Savita, but all the players, have improved a lot over time. They are very bold and focus on individual performances immensely. Savita as a non-captain is very different from her being the captain. Initially, there weren't many leadership qualities but they have come out very well.
You have spent quite some time with the junior women's team as well. How do you see their growth?
When we were playing, junior players rarely got the opportunity to be fast-tracked into the senior team. We used to play either the Asia Cup or the World Cup and the focus was on the seniors only. Besides, there were competitions for them to play outside of India. But now there are so many events and the juniors are given enough opportunities. All these juniors will be kept as backups now as a B team and in case there are injuries, they will be used as coverups. That is the thought now.
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