India names team for FIH Women's Pro League, Savita remains captain
Star striker Rani Rampal is likely to return to action after she made her last appearance at last year's Tokyo Olympics
India on Saturday named a 24-member women's hockey team, to be led by Savita Punia, for the European leg of the the FIH Pro League matches in Belgium and Netherlands in June.
The team will play six matches from June 11 to 22 ahead of the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup to be held in Spain and the Netherlands from July 1-17. India play hosts Belgium on June 11 and 12 in Antwerp before shifting base to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to face Argentina (June 18 and 19) and USA (June 21 and 22). Savita will continue to lead the team though star striker Rani Rampal is likely to return to action after she made her last appearance at last year's Tokyo Olympics.
Rani was under rehabilitation after recovering from a prolonged hamstring injury. She was named in the Indian squad for the last two matches of the FIH Pro League in Bhubaneswar against the Netherlands last month but did not play. Experienced defender Deep Grace Ekka will be the vice captain of the team which also has junior World Cup stars like Bichu Devi Kharibam, Ishika Chaudhary, Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Baljeet Kaur, Sangita Kumari and Deepika.
Rajini Etimarpu and Mahima Chaudhary -- who will be the captain and vice captain respectively of the Indian team for the June 4-5 FIH Women's Hockey 5s in Switzerland -- as well as 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," Schopman said. The Indian team is currently placed second in the standings after Argentina with 22 points from eight matches with four wins, three draws and one loss.
Goalkeepers: Savita (captain), Bichu Devi Kharibam
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka (vice-captain), Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Udita, Ishika Chaudhary, Akshata Abaso Dhekale
Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Salima Tete, Baljeet Kaur
Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi, Sangita Kumari, Deepika, Rani.