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Rani Rampal to lead Indian women's hockey team

New Delhi (PTI): Star forward Rani Rampal was on Friday named captain of the 18-member Indian women's hockey team which will take on England in a five-match series starting September 27 in Marlow.

The series is scheduled to take place from September 27 to October 4 and Rani will have goalkeepeer Savita as her deputy. Savita and Rajani Etimarpu retained their places in the side following the team's triumph in the Olympic Test Event in Japan recently.

Defenders Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar and Salima Tete have also been named in the squad. The midfield sees the return of the experienced Namita Toppo after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, Hockey India said in a statement.

India's midfield will also consist of other experienced players in Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz. The forward-line features Rani, Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur and youngster Sharmila Devi who made her international debut during the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo.

"The balance and mixture of players in our team remains the same from previous tournaments as we go into an important phase in our objective of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020," Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne said about the team selected for the event.

"It is good to have Namita Toppo back in the squad for the first time since Asian Games 2018...We still have ten days of training before we leave for the matches in England.

The Dutchman also spoke about how the tour will help in preparing to face USA in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha. "I think both the Great Britain team and USA play with a similar approach to their game, so it is beneficial for us to be playing against a strong opponent in their own backyard," he said.

"We now focus on preparing well for the matches in England, but our main objective will remain to finalise some points we can improve from the Olympic Test Event as we go into the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha."

The Indian Squad

Goalkeepers: Savita (Vice-Captain), Rajani Etimarpu.

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar, Salima Tete.

Midfielders: Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Namita Toppo.

Forwards: Rani (Captain), Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Sharmila Devi.

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