Indian hockey eves travel to England for Olympic preparatory tour

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) The Indian women’s hockey squad will leave for England on Sunday to face the hosts in a five-match series that will boost their Olympic preparations.

The team led by centre-half Ritu Rani will look to learn from the mistakes from the Hawke’s Bay Cup where it finished sixth.

Chief coach Neil Hawgood, his coaching staff and senior members of the squad, have singled out penalty corners for special attention in their preparatory camp. “It isn’t just winning and converting corners that has been singled out, but also not giving away too many to our opposition,” Hawgood said in a statement.

If India, ranked 13th on the world, are to outplay sixth-ranked England, they will need to pay special attention to this for the entire duration of the match. It will also help that experienced campaigner Ritu will feature in the squad after missing the Hawke’s Bay Cup through injury. It is an inclusion that will provide a much-needed boost to the side.

India need to look to start games strongly. “At the Hawke’s Bay Cup, we lost our game against Japan because we conceded three goals in three minutes. After that it was 1-0 to us. We don’t start well and that puts the pressure on us,” admitted Ritu Rani.

Hawgood also looked at this tour and their subsequent preparatory tours for the Olympics as a preparatory boost for the Games in August.

“All the teams that we play now (till the Olympics) are in our pool (at the Olympics). We’ve got Great Britain in. Then we are planning Australia and Japan in Australia. They’re all in our pool as well. Then prior to the Olympics we are planning three Tests against the US who are in our pool as well,” said Hawgood.

The tour will also give an opportunity to younger players to prove their strength and quality for the side, and seek a place for Rio.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu, Yogita Bali

Defenders: Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika (vice-captain), Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Namita Toppo, Hnialum Lal Ruat Feli

Midfielders: Ritu Rani (captain), Navjot Kaur, Lilima Minz, M. Lily Chanu, Renuka Yadav

Forwards: Anuradha Devi, Vandana Katariya, Preeti Dubey, Poonam Rani, Rani Rampal, Punam Barla.

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