Ritu Rani-led Indian hockey team departs for New Zealand for six Test series
A Ritu Rani-led 18-member Indian women’s hockey team left for New Zealand last night to take part in a six-match hockey Test series against the Black Sticks beginning in Napier on December 8.
The second Test will also be held in Napier on December 9. Palmerston North will host the third and fourth Tests on December 11 and 12, while Wellington would stage the fifth and sixth Tests on December 14 and December 15 respectively.
The six Test series would hold immense significance for the team, as they prepare for the forthcoming FIH World League Round 2 tournament to be played in New Delhi from February 18-24.
This will be Indian eves’ second trip to New Zealand this year. Earlier in April, the women’s team participated in the double leg Four-Nation Tournament featuring three other teams – hosts New Zealand, Australia and USA.
In the first leg held at the North Harbour Hockey Stadium in Auckland, India finished fourth after losing 1-2 to USA in extra time after both teams were locked 11-1 in regulation time.
Earlier in the league matches, Indian women offered stiff resistance to hosts Black Sticks before going down 1-2. In the second game, India were locked in a 1-1 draw with USA. They gave a good account of themselves in their final league tie against Australia before losing by a solitary goal.
In the second leg held at the Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium in Auckland, India won the bronze medal after scraping past USA by a solitary goal in the play-off tie, exacting sweet revenge for their listless 0-3 loss to them in the league phase.
The league stage saw India suffer a 2-5 mauling at the hands of Australia after their determined effort in their 0-1 loss against the women in yellow in the first leg.
Indian eves perhaps played the match of the tournament, holding New Zealand to a 3-3 draw in an intriguing contest to wrap up their league engagements before going on to bag the bronze.
The Indians eves had a five-month break before it took part in the FIH Champions Challenge tournament in Dublin (September-October), where India finished seventh among eight participating teams.
The Indian women started on a bright note, thumping Wales 3-0 in their opening tie before they were brought down to earth in their next game by Australia, who handed them a 8-1 pasting. The Indian eves lost a hard-fought match to Belgium 2-3 but made it to the quarterfinals.
It was tough luck for India as they lost 1-3 to Scotland in penalty shootout after both teams were tied 1-1 in regulation time.
The loss meant that India had to play in the classification match for places 5-8. India lost 2-3 to South Africa and then brushed aside Wales 4-0 in another classification match for 7-8 places to take the seventh spot.
Earlier in the year, the Indian women missed the London Olympics berth after losing 1-3 to South Africa in the Olympic qualifiers final in New Delhi.
The squad: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu (goalkeepers), Deep Grace Ekka, Kirandeep Kaur, Jaspreet Kaur, Kiran Dahiya, M.N Ponnamma, Deepika (defenders), Sushila Chanu, Ritu Rani (Captain), Chanchan Devi, Poonam Rani, Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz (midfielders), Vandana Katariya, Navjot Kaur, Anupa Barla, Soundarya Yendala (forwards).