Bengaluru: With eyes set on Rio Olympics, the Indian women's hockey team will leave for London next week to play a four-Test series against Great Britain as part of their preparations for the mega-event.
Though the team's recent show at Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand could have been better, chief coach Neil Hawgood, admits the team has learnt from its mistakes.
"We have come back from there and in the last two games that we've played against the boys' teams here (at the SAI centre) we've played better than we did in any game in New Zealand. We're playing a lot faster and people have just realised that we're coming to a point where you've just got to put in the effort that's actually required," Hawgood said.
Playing England, who figure in the same pool as India in the Olympics, will be a tough challenge for the team.
"England's a bit difficult, because all the teams that we play now (till the Olympics) are in our pool (at the Olympics). We've got Great Britain in four Test matches. Then we are planning Australia and Japan in Australia. They're all in our pool as well. Then prior to the Olympics we are planning three Tests against the USA who're in our pool as well," said Hawgood.
One of the biggest concerns for the team is their start, feels Ritu Rani, captain of the squad.
"In the quarterfinal against Japan in two-and--half minutes, we let in three goals. Then the rest of the game was 1-0 to us. So we just don't start well and historically we've always put ourselves behind and that puts the pressure on us.
It's one of the things we've focused on games against the boys. In the first boys' game, we were terrible in the first quarter but were better in the next three. We're really focusing on our starts," she said.
"We want to focus on field goals and improvise on penalty corners too and perfect them by August."
To have qualified for the Olympics is a big confidence booster for the girls and according to Rani, the team is motivated to do well.
"Each of us are working individually on improving our own game and getting better. We know we are left with just three months and we want to make most of it. Though there have been a few injuries to some of the girls, and Jasprit is missed for the past three months (because of a back injury) and not having a drag flicker makes a lot of difference. However, we have other players in the team who have become better in the past four months," Ritu said.