Experienced goalkeeper Savita Punia will lead the Indian women's hockey team for the upcoming Asia Cup. The competition will be held in Muscat, Oman, from January 21 to January 28. Deep Grace Ekka has been named Savita's deputy.
The Indian women's team are the defending champions, having beaten China 5-4 in the final of the previous edition in 2017.
The 18-member squad for the Asia Cup and two replacement athletes were announced by Hockey India on Wednesday.
India will battle it out against China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand for the title.
The top-four teams from this tournament will qualify for the 2022 FIH Women's Hockey World Cup to be held in Spain and the Netherlands.
The Indian team features a formidable lineup of 16 players who were part of a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Coach happy with mix of youth and experience in squad
Savita Punia will lead the team in the absence of Rani, who is undergoing rehabilitation in Bengaluru.
The team includes goalkeeper Rajani Etimarpu, defenders Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan and Udita. The midfield includes Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Salima Tete, Jyoti and Navjot Kaur while the forwardline will see Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Vandana Katariya, Mariana Kujur and Sharmila Devi.
Deepika and Ishika Chaudhary have been named as replacement athletes for the tournament.
The Indian team's chief coach, Janneke Schopman, said the team has a good mix of youth and experience and hoped for a good showing in the tournament.
"This is a very important tournament for us. I am happy with the team we have chosen. The team is a mix of some experienced players along with talented youngsters who have shown great potential at the international level. Though we were a bit disappointed with how things panned out for us at the Asian Champions Trophy, we were able to return to camp in SAI and put in some good sessions of hockey to prepare well for this challenge," Schopman said.
Indian team's matches at Asia Cup
The defending champions are grouped in Pool A along with Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. India will begin their campaign on January 21 against Malaysia.
January 21: India vs Malaysia
January 23: India vs Japan
January 24: India vs Singapore
January 26: Semi-finals
January 28: Final
18-member Indian squad for the Asia Cup
The following 18-players have been selected for the Indian team for the Asia Cup.
Goalkeepers: Savita Punia and Rajani Etimarpu.
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan and Udita.
Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika Malik, Neha Goyal, Salima Tete, Jyoti and Navjot Kaur.
Forwards: Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Vandana Katariya, Mariana Kujur and Sharmila Devi.
Replacement Athletes: Deepika and Ishika Chaudhary.