Indian Skipper Rani Rampal is hoping to create a lasting memory when she makes her appearance at the Asian Games in Indonesian City of Jakarta today.
In July last year, The Indian Hockey Womens Team were ranked world No. 12 — now at No. 9, they’re Asia’s top-ranked team. and enter as favourites — thanks to their recent form.
The forward-line will be led by the Rani, who has over 200 international caps for India and is is hoping her women’s hockey team can pick its first major games gold medal since the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Under coach Harendra Singh, India won the Asia Cup title in October last year, beating higher-ranked China and Japan.
At this year’s Commonwealth Games, India beat world No. 2 England and finished fourth, and won a silver medal at the Asian Champions Trophy. The women finished eighth at the recent World Cup, winning praise for their gritty defence.
Indian women’s team had won the gold medal at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi and ended runner up to South Korea in 1998 in Bangkok. They have managed to return with at-least a medal in all the nine editions, including a bronze at the 2014 Games at Incheon, South Korea.
At World no 9, Indian women’s team are the top-ranked side in the competition and will open its campaign against hosts Indonesia, ranked as low as 64, in a Pool B match.
The Real Test
India’s real test would be against defending champions Korea (ranked 10), China and Japan. Both China (ranked 11) and Japan (ranked 14) are in Pool A and India will not clash with them before the semifinals.
Clubbed in pool B, India will face their toughest test in the league stage against Korea on August 25. They play Kazakhstan on August 21 and conclude the Pool engagement with a clash against Thailand on August 27.
Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne highlighted the need for the right mixture of youth and experience in the squad. “We have a good mixture of experienced and young players. I’m happy to note that each one of them have experienced what it is like to play high level matches,” Marijne said.
This is the best chance for the team to win gold given their successful Asian tournament outings (Asian Champions Trophy – winners in 2016; runners-up in 2018).
- Goalkeepers: Savita (vice-capt), Rajani Etimarpu
- Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Deepika, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar
- Midfielders: Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz, Monika, Udita, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal
- Forwards: Rani Rampal (capt), Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur.