Rani named captain for women’s tour of Korea

Rani Rampal has been named the skipper for the upcoming Korea tour that will see the two sides play five matches from March 3 to 12th.

Rani Rampal will lead the Indian team in its first event since its historic Asia Cup success in November last year.   -  Special Arrangement

The Indian women's hockey team would begin its preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Games with a five-match tour of Korea at the Jinchun National Athletic Centre starting March 3. The 20-member squad for the same was named on Friday with seasoned goalkeeper Savita Punia finally being rested and debutant Swati named in her stead to accompany Rajani Etimarpu under the bar.

Captained by Rani Rampal, the squad also saw the return of experienced defender Deepika Thakur and striker Poonam Rani after a long injury lay-off. While Deepika underwent a knee surgery last year – and also got married in the interim — Poonam broke her elbow after colliding with the goalkeeper during a practice match before the team's Holland tour in September.

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“I had lost all hope of returning ever after the injury, it was that serious. I still have a rod in my hand and the recovery was long and painful. I stopped socialising, went off all the groups, fought off negative thoughts and worried about all the scars and stitches. But my family and team-mates helped me overcome. During rehabilitation here, I would watch PR Sreejesh sweating it out in the gym and he would encourage me a lot,” Poonam told The Hindu.

The team would also see youngsters like Namita Toppo, Neha Goyal and Udita in action as coach Harendra Singh looks to identify his core team for a busy season ahead that includes, besides the CWG, the Asian Champions Trophy in May, the World Cup in July and the Asian Games in August.

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“The Korea tour would be the team's first outing since winning the Asia Cup in November. “Doing well in the season’s first event is always important for confidence and momentum. It will also help us analyse areas that require improvement ahead of the Commonwealth Games where we aim to finish on the podium,” Harendra said.

The squad: Goalkeepers: Rajani Etimarpu, Swati; defenders: Deepika Thakur, Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Suman Devi Thoudam, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam; midfielders: Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Udita; forwards: Rani, Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Navneet Kaur, Poonam Rani.