Savita to lead India women’s hockey team as Rani Rampal rested

An 18-member Indian women’s hockey team under new captain, Savita, was named on Friday for the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, scheduled to be held between December 5-12 in Donghae, South Korea.

Regular India captain, Rani Rampal, who led India to a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, has been rested to undergo rehabilitation for an old injury.

India begin their campaign on the opening day and will battle it out against China, hosts Korea, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia in the single-pool tournament for top honours.

Savita, who was named the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year, will be assisted by experienced defender Deep Grace Ekka who will be her deputy.

The team includes goalkeeper Rajani Etimarpu and defenders Udita, Nikki Pradhan, Gurjit Kaur, who were all part of the Tokyo Olympics squad. The midfield includes Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Nisha, Monika, Neha, Jyoti who played for India at the Tokyo Olympics.

Namita Toppo, who was the alternate player at the Tokyo Olympics as well as her state-mate from Odisha Lilima Minz, are also part of the team. The forward line will see two-time Olympian Vandana Katariya lead the charge with Navneet Kaur who was part of the Tokyo Olympics squad. Forwards Rajwinder Kaur, Mariana Kujur and Sonika too have been named in the team.

Navjot Kaur and youngster Suman Devi Thoudam have been chosen as alternate players (AP), who will be permitted to play only if there is an injury or someone in the 18-member squad is ruled out of the tournament due to Covid-19.

Speaking about the team composition, chief coach Janneke Schopman said, “Despite some unfortunate injuries and senior players joining the junior team for the Junior World Cup in South Africa, I feel we have selected a good team for the upcoming Women’s Asian Champions Trophy. This tournament will be a good opportunity for some young new players to get a taste of the highest international level and I’m excited to see if we can implement our training themes consistently.

“I’m sure that expectations are high after our success at the Tokyo Olympics but we all start at zero again. I am confident that we can show our abilities and will be looking for our team to play consistently at a high pace,” Schopman added.

While India will play their opening match against Thailand on December 5, they play Malaysia on December 6 and hosts and defending champions Korea in their third match on December 8. India plays China on December 9 and Japan on December 11. The final will take place on December 12 between the topper of the pool and the team that finishes second in the pool.

In the previous edition held in 2018, India finished runners-up behind Korea.

Indian women’s team:

Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu.

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Udita, Nikki Pradhan, Gurjit Kaur.

Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Namita Toppo, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Lilima Minz.

Forwards: Navneet Kaur, Vandana Katariya, Rajwinder Kaur, Mariana Kujur, Sonika.