5 women hockey players who can fire India into the Rio Olympics

Ritu Rani
Ritu Rani (white) will lead India

The Indian women’s hockey teamIndian women’s team will be fighting for an Olympic berth by finishing in the top 3 of the World Hockey League semis. A total of 10 teams are going to take part in the tournament with 5 teams each in one group.India’s pool comprises of the 2nd ranked team Australia, 4th ranked New Zealand, 12th ranked Belgium and 23rd ranked Poland. India go into the tournament ranked 13th in the world ranking.The tournament will take place between June 20th and July 4th in Antwerp, Belgium.Let us have a look at some players who can steer India’s ship towards an Olympic berth by finishing in the top 3 teams:

#1 Ritu Rani

Ritu Rani
Ritu Rani (white) will lead India

This Indian talent made her debut at the International level at the tender age of 14 at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. At 14, most of the kids don’t even dream of representing their country, but she lived it. In the same year, she became the youngest member of the squad to represent India at the Germany World Cup.

The Haryana-based player is the most experienced player in the team with 206 caps to her name. She became captain of the national side in 2011 at the age of just 20 and has been leading the time since then.

India finished with a bronze at the 2013 Asia Cup under her captaincy, and the team continued its upward trajectory under her leadership when it won a Bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games. A lot of hope lies on the halfback, who has scored 16 times for the national side, to take India to the Rio Olympics.

#2 Rani Rampal

Rani Rampal
Rani Rampal

This Indian prolific forward is the leading goal scorer in the squad with 74 goals and has represented the nation on 133 occasions. And all this achieved at the age of just 20. She had a stellar career for a 20-year-old.

At the 2009 Champions Challenge, she was the highest scorer of the tournament and was named ‘young player of the tournament’ having scored seven goals. The No. 8 was included in the FIH women’s all-star team in the year 2010. At just the age of 15, she was the youngest squad member of the Indian team to take part in 2010 world cup.

In 2013 at the Junior World Cup, she was named ‘player of the tournament’ for her tremendous display in front of goal. A year later, the Haryana-based player was named for FICCI comeback of the year award.

The majority of the goalscoring burden would fall on this youngster at the upcoming tournament.

#3 Deepika Thakur

Deepika Thakur
Deepika Thakur

Deepika Thakur is a Punjab-based player who is also the vice-captain of the Indian women’s hockey team since mid-2014. She plays at halfback and is known for blunting down the opposition attacks.

She brings with her a lot of experience, having represented her country in two World Cups – 2010 and 2014, 2010 and 2014 CommonWealth Games and the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games.

The No. 7 also scored the winner when India got the better of the higher-ranked Japan 3-2 at the Hawke’s Bay Cup. The 28-year-old has 150 caps for the Indian team and had found the net 16 times. She plays for Railways in the domestic season.

The national team will rely on this halfback to keep the ball and find forwards in dangerous positions.

#4 Savita Punia

Savita Punia
Savita Punia

The Indian women’s team custodian Savita Punia is also the player on whom the pressure to perform well is always there. She is the last line of defence and will be tested in penalty corners, especially against the higher ranked teams.

The Haryana-based goalkeeper earned a lot of plaudits for her performance between the posts which helped the national team clinch the Bronze medal at the 2013 Asia Cup. She has made 105 appearances for the national team so far.

Savita is the one who can watch her whole team from the back and advise them on their positions in the match.

#5 Vandana Kataria

Vandana Kataria
Vandana Kataria is coming back from injury

Indian forward Vandana Kataria made her junior team debut in 2006 and made her first appearance for the senior team in 2010. She was a part of the bronze-winning team at the Junior World Cup in Germany back in 2013.

Having scored 35 goals, she is the second-highest goalscorer in the squad. Aged just 23, she carried the Indian team to the Hockey World League semi-final by smashing 11 goals in Round 2.

She and Rani Rampal will have to form a potent partnership up front if India are to participate in the 2016 Olympics. The No. 20 has earned 120 caps for the Indian team.

The Uttrakhand-based player plays for Railways domestically. With Rani Rampal the focal point of the attack, Vandana will also have to drop back to help the midfield

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Edited by Staff Editor
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