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Rani to lead Indian hockey eves in Korea tour

Rani will lead the 20-member Indian women’s hockey team while Sunita Lankra will serve as her deputy in the Korea Tour, which is slated to be held from March 3.

India are slated to play five matches against the hosts at the Jinchun National Athletic Centre, Korea.

With celebrated goalkeeper Savita rested for the tour, Rajani Etimarpu will be joined by debut player Swati to guard the Indian goalpost in Korea. The defence will see experienced Deepika, who was out of action following a knee surgery last year, make a comeback. She will be joined by Suman Devi Thoudam, Deep Grace Ekka, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam and Gurjit Kaur who will double up as dragflicker.

Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Udita and Lilima Minz will form the midfield while Rani, Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Navneet Kaur and Poonam Rani, who is also returning to squad after long injury haul, will form India’s attack.

The Korea tour will be Indian team’s first event after their historic Asia Cup success where they beat China 5-4 in a penalty shootout to lift the title in November last year.

“Doing well in the season’s first event is always important to gain confidence and momentum for the rest of the year. Also, Korea Tour will help us analyze the area that requires improvement ahead of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where we aim to finish on the podium,” expressed Chief Coach Harendra Singh.

On selecting a balanced team with young and experienced players, Harendra Singh said, “It is good to see experienced players Deepika and Poonam overcome injuries and return to the squad. We have a good mix of experienced players who will play an important role of guiding some of the youngsters in the team.”

With the team consistently improving in terms of fitness and speed, Coach Harendra is confident of a good show in Korea. “The girls are consistently scoring well in the Yo-Yo Tests which indicates their speed, fitness level is improving. Most of the girls participated in the recently held Hockey India Senior Women National Championship in Ranchi where they performed well for their respective teams and I was also there to watch some of the matches. I am sure they will carry forward this good form in Korea too,” he added.

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