Lalremsiami takes big steps as India march on at the World Cup

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What is it that you look for most in a striker in any sport?

The ability to conjure up goals, obviously. The capacity to keep running and working for the entirety of the game, perhaps. A desire to contribute to defence when the need arises is a bonus. The willingness to keep learning with each outing is often the icing on the cake.

After an astonishingly confident showing at her first World Cup in London, there's a likelihood that 18-year-old Lalremsiami might be picking herself out as a long-term star in India's forward line.

Perhaps it was just meant to be that then coach Harendra Singh would pair Lalremsiami, Siami to her friends, with India captain Rani Rampal as roommates when the Mizo first made it to the senior team last winter. The idea was to help the new striker communicate better in Hindi and English, languages hitherto alien to her, and ease her into a team environment alongside a fellow-attacker who herself broke into the national team when she was 15.

Now, there's a likelihood that Lalremsiami might emulate her captain -- winner of the young player of the tournament award at India's last World Cup in Argentina in 2010 -- in more ways than just the spoken word.

Lalremsiami will be in the running for that award this year, having played a big role in India reaching the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win against Italy on Tuesday.

All of India's brightest moments in attack in London have happened with Lalremsiami at their centre. In the opening match against England, she got herself at the end of a short cross from a rare counter-attack in the fourth quarter, with India leading 1-0 and England continuously pushing them back. She controlled the ball, but failed to chip goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, and not long after, England got the goal that made it 1-1.

Against both Ireland and the US, Lalremsiami was India's best exponent of a relentless, selfless pressing game employed by the forwards. She snuck the ball away from an Irish defender and played in Rani for what would turn out to be India's first penalty corner in a 1-0 defeat, and her influence throughout the game was key to keeping India in the contest.

On Tuesday, she showed the goal-poacher's instinct that the Indian team has sometimes lacked when playing top opposition. Her goal was the classic opportunist's strike -- seeing a diagonal ball blasted by Reena Khokar off a long corner, she waited for teammates Navjot Kaur and Lilima Minz to relay the ball into the far post, all the while adjusting her position and keeping track of the ball. Seeing goalkeeper Martina Chiroco advance, she lined it up on the reverse stick, and then coolly placed the ball over Chiroco's outstretched right arm to give India the early goal and some breathing space.

Lalremsiami's awareness of the match situation stood out against Italy. She ran down the centre when required, dropped wider when she found spaces and simply fought for each ball when dispossessed.

India's biggest takeaway from London is that they have with them a teenager with less than 30 caps but one who plays with the composure of a veteran up front and supports Rani. With Rani herself a few months shy of turning 24, the team now has two potent strikers who should feed off each other and serve Indian hockey for a long time to come.