Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne wants to ensure he gives every player an opportunity to prove her worth before he sits down to name the Olympic squad.
Rani Rampal will lead a buoyant Indian hockey women’s team on their tour of New Zealand that will get underway on January 25 in Auckland.
Keen to make the most of the opportunity ahead of the Olympics in July-August, the Indian hockey team management has named an experienced side, led by their talismanic striker, that will face the Kiwis and the reigning Olympic champions Great Britain on the tour.
While Rani Rampal will lead the Indian attack in the company of experienced forwards like Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur and Lalremsiami, the onus of controlling the midfield will lie on the shoulders of Sushila Chanu, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz and Sonika.
Meanwhile, it’s the defence that will see a major reshuffle after one of their experienced players Sunita Lakara announced her retirement from international hockey a few weeks back. While Deep Grace Ekka continues to be a force to reckon with in the Indian backline, the likes of Gurjit Kaur and Reena Khokar will be expected to step up their game as the team prepares for Tokyo 2020 in the coming months.
Explaining the thinking behind the Indian hockey women’s team selection, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said that he wanted to ensure that the players were kept on their toes as they build-up to the Summer Games.
“I want to use this tour to create more competition within this group”, he said.
“Although we are taking a 20-member team, in some matches we will use 16 players because we play with 16 players at the Olympics and in some matches, we will play 18 members,” Marijne pointed out. “The players have to show their best and I want to see how they perform under pressure and stay in the right rhythm for matches.
“Moreover, playing against Great Britain and New Zealand provides a great opportunity to be our best and I want the fearless attitude on display during the tour.”
The Indian hockey women’s team will begin their tour with a match against the New Zealand Development side on January 25 before taking on the Kiwi senior team on January 27 and 29. The Indian women will play Olympic champions Great Britain on February 4 and conclude their tour with another match against New Zealand on February 5.