Senior defender Deepika will captain an 18-member Indian women’s hockey team in next month’s Hawke’s Bay Cup to be held in Hasting, New Zealand in place of regular Ritu Rani, who has been rested.
Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam has been appointed as Deepika’s deputy for the tournament to be held from April 2 to 10.
The event is being seen as an important preparation for Indian eves ahead of Rio Olympics.
The selectors have tried their best to strike the right balance between experience and youth with the view to bolster the bench strength of the senior women’s team keeping in mind the Olympic year.
“It’s an important tournament for us especially in an Olympic year. A good performance in New Zealand will definitely boost our confidence. The team has players with enough talent and skills to get the better of some of the higher ranked teams in our pool,” said captain Deepika.
India, currently ranked 13th according to the latest FIH world rankings has been grouped in Pool B along side New Zealand (4th), China (5th) and Ireland (15th).
Apart from India, both New Zealand and China have also qualified for the Olympics.
Pool A consists of Australia, Korea, Japan and Canada.
The pool league matches will determine the seeding for the quarter-finals with all eight teams proceeding to the knock-out stage.
The challenge for the Indian team would be to improve upon their last year’s seventh place finish. India will take on the formidable Black Sticks in their opening encounter on April 2 before facing Ireland on April 3 and China on April 5 respectively.
Training under the vigilant eyes of chief coach Neil Hawgood, the Indian eves will be aiming to put up an improved show in the tournament.
“The Hawke’s Bay Cup will give the team a useful competition exposure. We will be trying out some new combinations and strategies. It’s also a good opportunity to test the bench strength. Our preparations have been good and we are hoping for a good performance in New Zealand,” said chief coach Hawgood.
Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika (captain), Sunita Lakra, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam (vice-captain), H Lalruatfeli, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan
Midfielders: Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Preeti Dubey
Forwards: Rani, Poonam Rani, Vandana Kataria, Anuradha Devi Thokchom, Sonika.