Indian women’s hockey team skipper Rani Rampal believes the upcoming Khelo India University Games will help in unearthing raw sporting talents from across the country.

The 25-year-old, who was recently conferred with India’s fourth highest civilian recognition, Padma Shri Award, lauded the government’s initiative, saying it will yield rich dividends for the country in future.

“I firmly believe that the Khelo India University Games is a great initiative by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. They (the ministry) first started the Khelo India Youth Games and now the Khelo India Universities Games, which is really amazing when you look from the global perspective,” Rani said.

“Majority of the athletes in other countries play sports internationally after playing at least some form of university-level games, and now that we are implementing similar strategies here in India, we will be able to find many more talented players at the university level, just like we are finding talented youth via the Khelo India Youth Games.

“There is a lot of raw, young talent across our country, who maybe not able to dedicate themselves fully to their favourite sport. But Khelo India University Games will give them a platform to perform, and show their raw talent,” she added.

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In Khelo India University Games to be held in Bhubaneswar from February 22 to March 1, a total of eight men’s and as many women’s teams will be vying for top honours in hockey.

Rani, who is currently pursuing her MA in English from the Punjabi University, Patiala, said she will be supporting her University team.

“It is amazing to see that the Punjabi University is also taking part in the women’s category. I am doing MA from there, and I will be cheering for the girls when they take the field in Bhubaneswar later this month,” said Rani, who recently also bagged The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019 award.

Along with the Punjabi University, Patiala, the women’s hockey category at the Khelo India University Games 2020 will also see seven other teams -- Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak; Ranchi University, Ranchi; ITM, Gwalior; Mysore University, Mysore; Sambalpur University, Odisha; Gurunanak Dev University, Amritsar; and Mangalore University, Karnataka taking part.

Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak is also involved in the men’s hockey category where they will be up against the likes of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi; Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, Gwalior; Bangalore University, Bangalore; Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Bengaluru Central University, Bangalore; Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi; and Veer Bahadur Singh Purvanchal University, Jaunpur.