Vandana Katariya has long been the lynchpin of the Indian hockey women’s team’s attack.
Be it her ability to get to the end of a defence-splitting pass inside the striking circle or be it dragging the defenders on to herself to create openings, the 28-year-old has never shied away from throwing herself into the danger end, often relying on her stick work to see her through.
However, with the Indian hockey team seeing an influx of young talent in the recent past, the Uttar Pradesh striker has been forced to change her approach.
“Over the past years, I have always been fearless,” she told Hockey India in a recent interview.
“But with time, I have realised that you can't play like that, especially when the sport has evolved so much. I also had to evolve, and I have enjoyed playing for the team and my team-mates.
“For instance, when you are inside the circle, even as a striker, it is not always the best thing to shoot at goal. You have a split second to make that decision, and sometimes passing the ball to your fellow player or just winning a penalty corner can be a better option.”
While moulding the game to suit the team’s needs is one thing, Vandana Katariya, who has over 240 international caps, also considers mentoring the youngsters as her responsibility, given the time she’s spent playing for the senior Indian hockey team.
“I know I have the experience which can be helpful to the younger players, and I keep talking to them about different situations that they will face on the field, and what all they can do,” said the striker who made her senior team debut in 2007.
“It is not as if I want them to follow exactly what I say, but I try to make them use their vision and think for themselves about what decisions they can make.”
Team India goes video analysing
The Indian women’s hockey team was busy continuing their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), South Centre in Bengaluru when a nation-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 was announced.
Though access to the pitch has been restricted for the team, Vandana Katariya said that they were making the most of the time by working on their fitness and analysing other teams.
“We haven't been able to be on the pitch, but our minds are always on the pitch. We are trying to maintain our fitness levels as best as we can so that when we are back, we are sharper than our opponents.
“Another aspect which has been talked about is how we can analyze different teams from around the world.
“We are watching various footage and with the help of our coaching staff, we can gain a lot from that," the 2013 Junior Women's Hockey World Cup bronze medalist said.