After winning the second round of Hockey World League and qualifying for the Hockey World League semi-final, India women’s hockey team on Tuesday departed for the five-match Test series against New Zealand, which starts from May 14 in Midlands.
With new-found aggression and tactics up their sleeves, Ritu Rani-led side features a mix of young and experience squad with the likes of Sushila Chanu, Rani, Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Vandana Katariya, Namita Toppo, Sunita Lakra, Navjot Kaur, Lilima Minz, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan, Savita among others.
The Indian team, who will be playing the semifinal of Hockey World league in Johannesburg, has found new dragflickers in Gurjit Kaur, young Reena Khokhar. Khokhar, recently, made her debut against Belarus in the Five-match Test Series earlier this year. Udita will be making her debut in Midlands.
“There is a lot of difference in how we play now. I believe we have improved in our fitness, technique and man- to-man marking. New Zealand Tour will be a good preparatory tour for us ahead of the World League Semi Final and this exposure will help us improve and also understand our weak points,” said Rani ahead of their departure.
“Playing five times against a higher ranked team like New Zealand will open up areas that we require to work on in the next three months ahead of the World League Semi Final,” said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne, under whom the women’s team began their season with a 5-0 win against Belarus.
After a good show at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Indian eves’ performance has been on an upswing and since then they also won the Asian Champions Trophy. Series win against the Kiwis will also help them qualify for the World Cup.
“Playing with good pace, handling pressure in crunch situations and coming up with really good defence apart from emphasis on fitness was some of the focus areas during the 21 -day camp in Bangalore. I believe if we work our plans well then we stand a good chance against New Zealand,” Marijne said.