Rani to lead Indian women

Rani to lead Indian women

Rani Rampal (left) has been named India's captain for the tour of Spain.

Rani Rampal will lead an 18-member Indian women's hockey team for the season-opening tour of Spain starting January 26.

Goalkeeper Savita Punia has been named vice-captain. India will play four matches with the Spain national team and two matches against the 2018 Women's World Cup runners-up Ireland.

The Indian team will leave on January 24 for the Spain Tour from Bengaluru where they have been based for the past two weeks for the national camp.

Rajani Etimarpu is the second goalkeeper in the squad. Defender Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam makes a comeback to the team after missing out on the World Cup and Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games last year due to injury.

The back line includes Salima Tete, who led the India under-18 team to a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, along with experienced Deep Grace Ekka, Reena Khokhar, Nikki Pradhan and drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur.

"The team has a different mix of players this time with some of the key players like Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo among a few other experienced players being rested. The idea was to give more players a chance to experience playing at a top level so we can create more depth in our selection ahead of the Olympic qualifiers," said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.

The team: Goalkeepers: Savita (vice-captain), Rajani Etimarpu. Defenders: Reena Khokhar, Deep Grace Ekka, Salima Tete, Nikki Pradhan, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam. Midfielders: Lilima Minz, Karishma Yadav, Sonika, Neha Goyal. Forwards: Rani Rampal (captain), Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Udita, Navjot Kaur.