While the men’s India hockey team struggled last year with extremely inconsistent performances, the women’s hockey team has quietly been earning the plaudits. Under Dutch head coach Sjoerd Marijne, the women’s team has clinched its best World Cup finish in 40 years and its first Asian Games silver medal in 20 years.
That the team accomplished these feats, in two high-profile tournaments, within the span of a month, is a testament to the players’ physical and mental fitness and Marijne’s belief in his team. With not many big tournaments this year, the focus of the team, according to the coach, will be to qualify for the Olympics. The Indian team under Rani Rampal will start their season with a four match series against Spain. It will be followed by a series against Women’s World Cup runners-up, Ireland, as the Indian team will continue their tour in Europe.
Hockey India announced that the 18 member squad will be led by ace striker Rani Rampal, with experienced keeper Savita being her deputy. The tour begins on 26th January with first of the four matches and will conclude on the 31st of January.
The two teams also met last year in a similar tour, and the series was tied 2-2 that time round.
Marijne has chose to elect a more diverse team for the tour. As he states,
“The team has a different mix of players this time with some of the key players like Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo among few other experienced players being rested. The idea was to give more players a chance to experience playing at a top level so we can create more depth in our selection ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers.”
The team will feature defender Salima Tete, who led the India U-18 team to a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, as well as Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam who makes a comeback after missing out on the World Cup and the Asian Games in Jakarta-Pelambang, due to injury.
Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu
Defenders: Reena Khokhar, Deep Grace Ekka, Salima Tete, Nikki Pradhan, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam
Midfielders: Lilima Minz, Karishma Yadav, Sonika, Neha Goyal
Forwards: Rani Rampal, Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Udita, Navjot Kaur.