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Series against New Zealand a tough test, says Women’s Hockey coach

India’s women’s hockey team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne reckons that the upcoming five-match Test series against New Zealand away, starting from May 14, will be a good test of quality and character for his wards.

The Indian women’s team plays the Test Series in New Zealand after a successful outing in West Vancouver, Canada, where they won the Women’s Hockey World League Round 2 and qualified for the Women’s HWL Semi-Final to be played in Johannesburg.

But Marijne knows that it will be an uphill task for his side, ranked 12th in the world, as they gear up to face World No.5 New Zealand.

“Playing five times against a higher ranked team like New Zealand will open up areas that we require to work on in the next three months ahead of the World League Semi Final,” said Marijne said, before the squad’s departure on Tuesday.

The team’s performance has been on an upswing post Rio Olympics last year. They were crowned champions at the 4th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy apart from a series of wins this year and a good outing in New Zealand will only help improve their confidence level ahead of the event in Johannesburg which also happens to be a World Cup qualifier.

“Playing with good pace, handling pressure in crunch situations and coming up with really good defence apart from emphasis on fitness was some of the focus areas during the 21-day camp in Bengaluru. I believe if we work our plans well then we stand a good chance against New Zealand,” added Marijne.

The team led by Rani Rampal features an experienced mix with the likes of Sushila Chanu, Ritu Rani, Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Vandana Katariya, Namita Toppo, Sunita Lakra, Navjot Kaur, Lilima Minz, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan and Savita, among others.

The team also has a new drag-flicker in Gurjit Kaur, and newcomer Reena Khokhar — who made her debut against Belarus in the five-match Test Series earlier this year in Bhopal. Udita, who will be making her debut, is also in the fold.

“There is a lot of difference in how we play now. I believe we have improved in our fitness, technique and man-to-man marking.

“New Zealand Tour will be a good preparatory tour for us ahead of the World League Semi Final and this exposure will help us improve and also understand our weak points,” stated Rani.

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