Indian women’s hockey team chief coach Janneke Schopman is confident the tour of South Africa will be a great opportunity to learn and prepare for the Hangzhou Asian Games, where a gold will ensure automatic qualification for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Hockey India on Thursday named a 22-member squad for the South Africa tour where the side, led by goalkeeper Savita Punia, will play four games against the hosts and three against the Netherlands in Cape Town from January 16 to 28.
The tour comes a month after India’s title triumph in the inaugural Nations Cup in Valencia, Spain.
Besides Savita, the other experienced players in the side are vice-captain Navneet Kaur and veteran forward Rani, who is returning to the squad after more than a year, having last played a Pro League game against Belgium.
Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, who led the junior national team at the Uniphar U-23 Five-nations Tournament in May last year, has received her maiden call in the senior side.
“The South Africa tour is a brilliant opportunity for us to build on our performance of the Nations Cup. Playing both South Africa as well as the Netherlands on this tour provides us with everything we need to learn about ourselves come the Asian Games," said Schopman.
The coach added the three games against the strong Dutch will be crucial to know her team’s weaknesses and also assess its progress.
“Playing the world No. 1 Netherlands will most likely expose our vulnerabilities and will also show where we are with our performance and growth. Playing South Africa, where we most likely will have more of the ball, will give us the opportunity to improve in ball possession areas," said the coach.
Apart from Rani and Navneet, the forward line includes the experienced Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Sangita Kumari, Beauty Dungdung, Reena Khokhar and Sharmila Devi.
Goalkeepers: Savita (Captain), Bichu Devi Kharibam;
Defenders: Nikki Pradhan, Udita, Ishika Chaudhary, Gurjit Kaur;
Midfielders: Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, P. Sushila Chanu, Nisha, Salima Tete, Monika, Neha, Sonika, Baljeet Kaur;
Forward: Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur (VC), Vandana Katariya, Sangita Kumari, Beauty Dungdung, Rani, Reena Khokhar, Sharmila Devi.
South Africa vs India (Jan 16, 17, 19, 21)
Netherlands vs India (Jan 22, 27, 28).
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