Over the course of the last 10 days, the Indian women's hockey team have been at their best in multiple aspects - scoring lots of goals, conceding very few, grinding out results when they had to and eventually lifting the Women's Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi for the second time after beating Japan 4-0 in the final.
In a way, this is their most complete tournament performance under head coach Janneke Schopman, where they remained unbeaten in seven matches despite facing tough opponents in the group and knockout stages.
The title win is a good response to missing out on gold at the Asian Games and with that in mind, here are five big winners for the Indian team:
Under pressure, Schopman delivers
Schopman's reign so far has delivered mixed results: while she helped India win the FIH Nations Cup and qualify for the Pro League, the results in the big tournaments, like the World Cup, have been underwhelming. At the CWG and Asian Games, India were expected to push all the way to the final but lost in the semifinals. And there is the Rani Rampal issue, with the former captain dropped by Schopman without much explanation.
By guiding the team to title triumph in Ranchi, though, Schopman has earned some respite from her critics. She stuck with the core players, who came good, while making impressive additions like Deepika -- who took over the penalty corner duties in the absence of Gurjit Kaur -- and Baljeet Kaur, who was a livewire in the midfield.
Schopman's decision to move Salima Tete to central midfield also worked well for the team as the midfielder ended up scoring five crucial goals in seven matches.
Sangita Kumari shines with goals and assists
She was India's top-scorer in the tournament, netting six times, including in the final against Japan. Only 21, Sangita's potential is massive, and she can lead the Indian attack for the next decade or so. She has all the qualities of a complete forward -- her movement inside the circle, the way she finds space in congested areas, instinctive finishing and also setting up goals for her teammates, like she did for Salima against South Korea in the group stage match.
Sangita's emergence also means less pressure on Vandana Katariya to score field goals and less dependency on penalty corner conversions.
A new but effective role for Salima Tete
It's hard for somebody like Salima to adjust to a new role. She is one of the best wingers in women's hockey and one of the most consistent performers in her preferred position. But Schopman wanted more from her, she wanted Salima to evolve and go beyond her natural strengths.
Salima wasn't keen on playing centrally but it didn't affect her on-pitch performance. In fact, the move worked for her and the team as she scored five goals and opened up a goal-scoring front from the middle. She's capable of long-range smashes, like the one she scored against China and also cheeky and instinctive finishes, like the ones she scored against South Korea in both the matches.
Savita Punia, captain fantastic
Savita's performance in the final once again showed why she's an invaluable member of the team. In big matches, and she has been doing it over a decade, her level goes up a notch where she pulls off multiple match-winning saves.
Savita came up with two solid blocks in back-to-back penalty corner situations in the second quarter when Japan were behind just by a goal. In the final quarter, when India were up 2-0, she saved a penalty stroke to break Japanese players' spirit and deny the opportunity to make a comeback into the match.
A big round of applause for the crowd in Ranchi who turned up in numbers and in all ages to cheer for the national team. The Indian team has three players from the state of Jharkhand -- Salima, Sangita and Nikki Pradhan and all three were outstanding in front of their home crowd. Watching the three and others inside the stadium would've certainly impressed many youngsters to take up the sport.
The free entry to the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh AstroTurf Hockey Stadium helped in getting more people to watch the national team. But the turnout for the final, on a Sunday when there was a World Cup match involving the Indian cricket team, proved that there's merit and success in taking the game to all corners of the country.
The Indian team will be back in Ranchi for the all-important Olympic Qualifiers in January. Schopman and the players will expect for the same high turnout will push them to book their tickets to Paris 2024.