Experienced defender Sunita Lakra will lead defending champions India at the Asian Champions Trophy women’s hockey tournament, beginning at Donghae City, Korea on May 13.
Sunita was handed the leadership responsibility of the 18-member side in the absence of regular skipper Rani Rampal, who has been rested for the tournament. Goalkeeper Savita will be the vice-captain.
Experienced Deepika, Deep Grace Ekka, Suman Devi Thoudam and Gurjit Kaur, who doubles up as a drag-flicker, will man the defensive line while the midfield will feature Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur and Udita. India’s forwardline will be led by Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Anupa Barla.
The team will be hoping to ride on the good show at the recently-concluded Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where it entered the semifinals after 12 years, eventually finishing fourth.
In 2016, the Indian team had defeated China in the final to win the previous edition of Asian Champions Trophy. The girls followed up this victory with a successful outing at the 2017 Asia Cup where they beat China again in the summit clash.
This year, the team will begin its campaign against Japan on May 13. Interestingly, it is expected to be Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne’s first assignment with the team following his return to the women’s camp after being in charge of the senior men’s side for eight months.
Following a disastrous Commonwealth Games outing, Marijne was on Tuesday forced to swap places with Harendra Singh by Hockey India. “We were very disappointed after losing the semi-final in CWG by a close margin to hosts Australia. We knew it was our best chance to make the medal round,” said Sunita.
“But we have gained a lot of confidence and heart from these matches against tougher teams like England and Australia. While this team is of mostly experienced players, we also have talented youngsters who are eager to contribute to the team’s success and help us defend the title,” she added.
Goalkeepers: Savita, Swati.
Defenders: Deepika, Sunita Lakra (C), Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Suman Devi Thoudam.
Midfielders: Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Udita.
Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Anupa Barla.