Gurjit Kaur: India’s lone star from short corners
It’s not often that you see a team go into any competition with just one drag-flick specialist. After all, the short corners are one of the most exploited methods of goal scoring in hockey.
While world champions, the Netherlands, boasts a formidable battery in Caia van Maasakker and Ireen van den Assem, the reigning Olympic champions Great Britain have Giselle Ansley and Laura Unsworth to look up to. But in India’s case, Gurjit Kaur has been their only go-to drag-flicker for a while.
Ever since cementing her place in the Indian side in 2017, Gurjit has been shouldering the responsibility of anchoring India’s defence and providing them with vital goals from penalty corners in various competitions.
Be it the 2018 Asian Games, that saw India settle for a silver, or be it the recently concluded FIH Series Finals in Hiroshima, Japan - a tournament that saw the 23-year-old end as the top goal scorer (11 goals) - Gurjit has been an indispensable part of the Indian set-up of late. And the Punjab player seems to enjoy this role.
“Drag flicking is a responsibility for me like everyone else has their own responsibilities. Some players have to attack for a goal, some players have to defend, that way, my responsibility is to ensure we score through penalty corners, which I work on. The exposure I have got over the past two years has only helped me grow in the team and improve my skills as a drag-flicker,” Gurjit was quoted as saying to Hockey India.
It's no secret that for Gurjit, drag-flicking was never her first love.
In fact, the young defender was forced into learning the art since her team lacked quality drag-flickers during her days with the junior team.
A dedicated student of the game, Gurjit would then train under renowned Dutch coach Toon Siepman, whose wards included greats like Maartje Paumen, Sohail Abbas, Bram Lomans and Mink van der Weerden, to improve her game. “I practised and learned drag-flicking well after joining the Indian team. Then I got my chances and that helped me improve my confidence,” she said.
Up next for India will be the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo, Japan which starts on 17th August.
Gurjit seems ready for the new challenge.
“Since we are backed by good preparations - thanks to the Special Camps held for defenders and goalkeepers, the team environment before the Olympic Test Event is great and we are upbeat and confident. In the past few weeks, we have worked on quite a few aspects of our game so we can do well against teams like Australia, China, and Japan,” she added.
Having beaten Asian countries in their previous tournaments, Gurjit insists that the team is now targeting a win against Commonwealth Games champions Australia during this Test event.
“It will be a big confidence boost for us if we do well against Australia. In the past six months, we have done very well against teams like Japan, China, Spain, and Ireland but a win against Australia will put us in good stead ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers.”