What's the story?
Hockey India, the official governing body of the sport in India, was forced to cancel the Indian Women's Hockey team tour of China due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
Earlier, Rani Rampal and co. had secured an Olympic berth during the 2019 FIH Olympic qualifiers with their win over the USA. It will be their third-ever and second consecutive outing at the quadrennial extravaganza.
Rani Rampal and co. recently returned to India from their New Zealand tour. The Indian eves played five matches during this tour. They defeated New Zealand's Development squad 4-0 in the tour opener. However, they suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of the hosts - Black Sticks Women - post the inaugural triumph.
Sjoerd Marijne and his troops recovered extremely well to finish the tour on a high with consecutive wins over Great Britain Women's Hockey team and New Zealand Women's Hockey team. They maintained high levels of fitness and significantly improved as a unit in the past three years.
The heart of the matter
The Indian team were set to travel to China as part of their next tour that was scheduled between 14-25 March. However, it has now been cancelled due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus that has resulted in over 639 casualties and has infected over 31,500 people worldwide.
Speaking on the matter, Indian skipper Rani Rampal said:
“We had to travel to China but that has been canceled due to the virus. So a lot of teams are also not available to play with because they are participating in the Pro hockey league. Hockey India and our coaches are working out whom to play."
Rani, who became India's first Hockey player to win the acclaimed 'World Games Athlete of the Year' last month, also highlighted the fact that it is of paramount importance to keep playing with the good teams.
The top teams in the Women's Hockey circuit are all participating in the ongoing FIH Pro Hockey League. The competing teams include Australia, Belgium, China, Netherlands, United States, Argentina, Germany, and New Zealand.
The Indian eves will now be attending a four-week conditioning and training camp that will be conducted according to its original schedule of 16th February - 14th march. Uncertainty looms over what will be scheduled for them during the important Olympic preparation time after the conclusion of this camp.
With less than five months remaining for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Federation is already looking for an alternative opponent to ensure that preparations remain on track and India's chances are not dented in any way.