India, on Saturday, May 21, named a strong 24-member women’s hockey team for the European leg of the FIH Pro League games in June in Netherlands and Belgium. The team will be captained by the 31-year-old Sirsa-born Savita Punia.
The team will play six matches from June 11 to 22 ahead of the Women’s World Cup to be held in the Netherlands and Spain from July 1 to 17.
The Women in Blue are set to play hosts Belgium on June 11 and 12 in Antwerp after which they will shift base to Rotterdam to lock horns with Argentina on June 18 and 19. Thereafter, Punia and Co and Co. will face the USA on June 21 and 22.
Punia will continue to lead the team even after striker Rani Rampal’s likely return after the latter made her last appearance at Tokyo Olympics last year.
Earlier, Rani was suffering from a hamstring injury after which she underwent rehabilitation. She was previously named in the Indian squad for the last two games of the Pro League in Bhubaneswar against the Netherlands, but she failed to take part.
Veteran defender Deep Grace Ekka has been named as the vice captain of the team. The team also includes World Cup stars like Ishika Chaudhary, Bichu Devi Kharibam, Baljeet Kaur, Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Sangita Kumari and Deepika.
Rajini Etimarpu, Mahima Chaudhary and Rajwinder Kaur have been named as standbys.
Speaking about the team, head coach Janneke Schopman stated, “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 games 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.