Indian women’s hockey team working on bench strength

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New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Indian women’s hockey goalkeeper Rajani Etimarpu on Sunday said the national team was working on bench strength ahead of the Hawke’s Bay Cup to be held in New Zealand from April 11-19.

Apart from the experienced goalkeeper Savita, 24-year-old Rajani also plays an important role in the team’s planning and combinations at the ongoing preparatory camp at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here.

The tournament will witness India, Argentina, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and New Zealand fighting it out for the title.

“We are working very hard as a whole team and making the 18-member squad a strong team. Here each player is important and with new rules and regulations for substitution, all the players must be at the same level,” Rajani said.

“Strong bench strength is very important for a balanced team as coaches have various options and players can be rotated during the matches. We are practicing hard as a single unit and keeping same strategies in our minds,” she said in a release.

Rajani, who has played 33 international matches, said she shares a good rapport with senior custodian Savita.

“I and Savita share a good rapport and always play a key role in the team’s defence strategies,” the Andhra girl said.

The Hawke’s Bay Cup will be a crucial tournament for us as the best teams are participating there.

“The tournament will give us valuable experience before the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final. We are looking forward to the tournament.”

If India finish among the top three in the HWL in Belgium, they will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The ongoing preparatory camp here for the Indian team under the guidance of high performance director Roelant Oltmans commenced on March 22 and will conclude on April 7.

India will play their first match against China on April 11 in New Zealand.

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