It has been long since “Chak De India” awed the nation with it’s portrayal of how the Indian Women’s hockey team in the film fights all odds to emerge victorious at the World Cup. The movie was inspired by true events that led to the Indian women’s hockey team actually winning the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Sadly, while Preeti Sabharwal and Komal Chautala continue to remain household names event today, the true legends of women’s hockey in India still await their due share of the limelight.With the FIH World League Round 2 all set to commence on March 7 at New Delhi, here are six names from the Indian women’s hockey team that deserve to be well known.
#1 Ritu Rani
The current captain of the Indian eves, Ritu Rani is a midfielder who has 193 international caps to her credit. Born in 1991 in Haryana, she started training in the sport at the tender age of 12 at the famous Shahbad Academy there. By the time she was 14, she had already been a part of the national squad at the 2006 World Cup in Madrid, the youngest player in the team.
She was the top scorer at the 2009 Champions Challenge II in Kazan, Russia, scoring a total of eight goals and contributing crucially to India’s victory at the tournament. After becoming the captain in 2011, Rani led the team to bronze medals at the 2013 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur and the 2014 Aisan Games in Incheon.
#2 Jaspreet Kaur
Known as the “Rupinder Pal Singh” of women’s hockey, Jaspreet Kaur also hails from Haryana and has been trained at the Shahbad Academy. The fiery 19-year old is the chief penalty corner drag-flicker in the squad, having a penchant for converting a stationery ball in a penalty corner into a pivotal goal.
Having represented the country in over 80 internationals, Jaspreet went on to become the best player of the tournament in the 2013 World League Round 2. Despite battling a tough knee injury later in 2013, she made a great comeback in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, becoming India’s top goal scorer there and also at the Asian Games that year in Incheon. The team continues to bank on her for her strong defending skills and penalty corners.
#3 Savita Poonia
The ace goalie of the Indian team is nothing short of a wall standing between the opponent striker and the net. Savita too hails from Haryana and shot to the limelight with her remarkable performance in the 8th Women’s Asia Cup in Malaysia, where she was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament and rightly so.
Her agility and quick thinking enable her to make some crucial saves, which contributed immensely to India’s bronze medal at the tournament. Savita was lauded by then Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda for the same.
#4 Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam
Born in 1992 in Manipur, Sushila Chanu was named captain of the junior women’s field hockey team in 2013. Beginning her career in 2003, Chanu went on to win laurels such as leading the team to a bronze at the 2013 junior World Cup in Mochengladbach, Germany. In the current senior squad, she plays as a midfielder alongside captain Ritu Rani and is known to convert several scoring opportunities into goals.
#5 Amandeep Kaur
A young player from Punjab who first represented India in last year’s Asian Games where the team clinched the bronze medal, Amandeep Kaur is one of the rising stars of Indian women’s hockey. A talented player who played as a midfielder earlier and now plays as a forward, Kaur has said in interviews that her training is intense and she constantly tries to learn from experienced players like captain Ritu Rani about various techniques such as back passing, passing to the strikers and shooting from outside the D.
In a recent match against Germany during the Span tour last month, it was Amandeep’s penalty corner coversion in the 55th minute that led to India’s victory.
#6 Punam Barla
One of the six players from Odisha to be selected to represent India at Valencia, Spain last month, Punam Barla’s debut performance itself was a powerpacked one. In their recent match against a Dutch men’s club, it was Punam’s clever exchange, which set up striker Poonam Rani for the second Indian goal. She is definitely one to keep an eye on.