Hockey India (HI) had announced the Indian women's hockey team for Tokyo Olympics 2020 on June 21. The team is being led by star striker Rani Rampal, along with two vice-captains — defender Deep Grace Ekka and experienced goalkeeper Savita.
HI has adopted a similar strategy for the men's hockey team as well. The men's team is led by Manpreet Singh with deputies in defenders Birendra Lakra and Harmanpreet Singh.
The strategy to appoint two vice-captains for a hockey team is fresh. For Rio Olympics 2016, HI had announced a captain and deputy for the women's and the men's teams. PR Sreejesh led the men's team at the time while his deputy was SV Sunil. The women's team was captained by Sushila Chanu and the vice-captain of the team was Deepika.
In a press conference earlier today, Sjoerd Marijne, the coach of the women's hockey team, explained the reason for adopting a new strategy this time around:
"We have worked on the leadership group very hard with Rani and Savita. But the leadership group is much wider. All the players have a different character. Savi is different from Rani, Rani is different from Savi and that is the case with Grace. And this way they are guiding the young players. The bigger the leadership group, the more responsibility they are taking."
Marijne is already looking beyond the Tokyo Games and wants to create a legacy where the players, future leaders and captains can be groomed within the team environment.
"This is creating a leadership group. And also guides others in the process. And bigger the group, the more responsibility is taken by the team."
Elaborating further, Marijne said:
"Once I was with the men (men's hockey team) we called it player driven, and everybody was like what is going on? And I am not saying this is players' driven."
Rampal, Ekka and Savita have been part of the leadership group for a long time. They have proven their abilities with this added responsibility and have guided many youngsters in the core group. Marijne underlined that as the primary reason for having two vice-captains.
"Having two vice-captains will also strengthen the core leadership group for the future. Their experience and role will be of importance as we aim to achieve good results in Tokyo."
The coach is hopeful that in crunch situations the leaders of the pack will be able to absorb pressure which will allow the youngsters to play freely and express themselves better on the field.