The Indian women’s hockey team finished seventh among eight teams in his debut assignment at the Champions Challenge I, but coach CR Kumar believes that even though there are weak areas, the gap with the top teams has been reduced to an extent.CR Kumar feels team has reduce mistakesIndia’s final placement at the second tier tournament has given food for thought to the team management, which has an eye towards the Olympic qualifiers on home turf in February next year.”It’s a very short period to develop all the parameters to the desired level. Basically, we worked to balance every needs,” Kumar told Mail Today on Tuesday.Several senior players -such as goalkeeper Dipika Murthy, Surinder Kaur, Mamta Kharab and Subhadra Pradhan -did not make the trip to Dublin, Ireland, due to injury or personal issues and the coach said this affected the preparation of the team. “Many players carried injuries to the camp so we were unable to push them very hard. The advantage of the last camp is that we worked a lot with stick and ball and obviously we drastically reduced soft and silly mistakes.”The basics in ball handling have improved a lot. From this tournament we learnt that we have to enhance and perfect our current potential to match the demands,” Kumar said. Under previous coach Sandeep Somesh, India played three major events -World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asiad -but failed to make a lasting impression.The most disappointing was the team’s failure to reach the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games on home turf after they had won a gold medal and a silver in the previous two editions. They also finished outside the medal bracket at the Asiad.advertisementKumar said the gulf with the top eight teams in the world, who were simultaneously in action at the Champions Trophy, has been reduced. “We have narrowed the gap. By saying that we have reduced goal conceding and we maintain better ball possession. Even the world champions have to play their best on the given day to win a game.” However, fitness and stamina continue to be areas of concern for the team.”The areas that we have to focus on are a high level of fitness, penetration and deep defending.”The critical areas will be focused when the next national camp gets underway in Bhopal. Kumar is also looking to provide more international exposure to the younger and more inexperienced players in the set-up.”India has many youngsters with potential but without much international experience. We are trying to bring them in and expose them to a higher level in the next camps. “Tournaments like the second Asian Champions Trophy, in Ordos, China, are crucial. Further programmes will be finalised to gain more international exposure to elevate the team’s standard before the Olympic qualifier,” the coach said.After his first tournament in charge, Kumar is in a much better position to assess what needs to be done in the days ahead.”At the Bhopal camp, we will give priority to develop speed, endurance and optimum strength,” he said. “Finishing skills as well as penetration, aggressive on and offthe- ball running, penalty corner conversion and defending and other set pieces will be our priority in this camp.” The Bhopal camp will start later this week and is expected to continue till August end before the team leaves for the Asian Champions Trophy.”We are planning to conduct tests with the support of Sports Authority of India and comprehensive suggestions from them,” Kumar said.The coach is insistent that the players themselves need to take responsibility for their fitness when they are not on national duty. “The homework and necessary advice have been given by the trainer. The national players have to join the national camp with optimum fitness. if they fail, the time taken to regain it will slow down our progress,” Kumar added.