India on Thursday named an 18-member women's hockey team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, with star striker Rani Rampal left out yet again for failing to regain full fitness after an injury.
The side will be captained by goalkeeper Savita Punia while experienced defender Deep Grace Ekka will be her deputy in the Birmingham CWG, to be held from July 28 to August 8. The duo will also take the same roles in the World Cup, to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Spain from July 1 to 17.
There are only three changes in the CWG squad from the World Cup team. Rajani Etimarpu was named in place of Bichu Devi Kharibam as number two goalkeeper while World Cup team member Sonika (midfielder) was left out from the CWG squad. Forward Sangita Kumari, who was named as one of the replacement players for the World Cup, figured in the CWG team as a full member.
India have been placed in pool A along with England, Canada, Wales and Ghana. They will begin their campaign on July 29 against Ghana.
Rani, who led the Indian women to a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, was picked for the recent FIH Pro League matches in Belgium and Netherlands after recovering from a hamstring injury.
She didn't feature in the first four games of the side's European leg of Pro League, raising doubts about her fitness. Eventually, it cost her a place in the World Cup-bound squad.
In the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, India had finished fourth after losing to England in the bronze medal match. However, after an impressive campaign in their maiden FIH Pro League where they finished overall third behind Argentina and the Netherlands, the Indian team is looking for a podium finish in Birmingham.
Speaking about the team selection, chief coach Janneke Schopman said, "We have chosen an experienced side for the Commonwealth Games and the players believe they have a good shot at a medal this time.
"The team is upbeat after a good outing in the FIH Pro League matches and understand very well that the expectations are also high.
"We would have finished our World Cup campaign only days before the CWG so it was very essential for us to pick a physically fit team as the recovery time between the two events is just about 10 days," added Schopman.
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