Savita Punia will continue to lead the women’s national team but Rani Rampal could be set for a comeback to action as Hockey India on Saturday named a 24-member squad for the FIH Hockey Pro League matches to be played in Belgium and Netherlands in June.
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The matches are crucial not just for India’s position in the league but also a big test ahead of the much-awaited FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup in Spain and Netherlands starting on 1 July 2022.
India is scheduled to play hosts Belgium on 11th and 12th June followed by matches against Argentina on 18th and 19th June and United States on 21st and 22nd June.
The team will be led by Savita and vice-captained by Deep Grace Ekka as has been the case in the recent matches in Rani’s injury-enforced absence.
While the team list includes Junior World Cup stars Bichu Devi Kharibam, Ishika Chaudhary, Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Baljeet Kaur, Sangita Kumari and Deepika, the European leg of the league is also likely to witness experienced striker Rani’s return to action after she made her last appearance at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. She was in rehab to recover from a prolonged hamstring injury.
The Indian team features goalkeepers Savita and Bichu Devi Kharibam, defenders Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Udita, Ishika Chaudhary, Akshata Abaso Dhekale. The midfield will see Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Salima Tete and Baljeet Kaur.
The forward-line will see the very experienced Vandana Katariya lead the charge with Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi, Sangita Kumari, Deepika and Rani.
Rani had been named in the original squad for India’s recent home matches in Odisha against a young Netherlands side but she didn’t get any playing time.
Additionally, Rajini Etimarpu, Mahima Chaudhary and Rajwinder Kaur have been named as standbys.
Talking about the team, chief coach Janneke Schopman said, “This is going to be a very important leg of Pro League matches in Europe as it will give us insights into our progress ahead of the World Cup in July. These matches are going to be critical in also finalizing our team for the World Cup.”
“This is a good, well-balanced squad with a mix of some very experienced players and youngsters who have shown great promise after their Junior World Cup outing. I am very interested to find out how they will play in European conditions against quality sides like Belgium, Argentina and US,” Schopman added.
The Indian women’s team is currently at No 2 position on the pool table in the FIH Hockey Pro League and will be vying to top the charts at the end of the season.
1. Savita (Captain)
2. Bichu Devi Kharibam
3. Deep Grace Ekka (Vice-captain)
4. Gurjit Kaur
5. Nikki Pradhan
7. Ishika Chaudhary
8. Akshata Abaso Dhekale
10. Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam
14. Navjot Kaur
16. Salima Tete
17. Baljeet Kaur
18. Vandana Katariya
20. Navneet Kaur
21. Sharmila Devi
22. Sangita Kumari