Defender P. Sushila Chanu was named captain in place of rested skipper Ritu Rani as Hockey India (HI) on Monday named the women's squad for a four-nation tournament in Darwin as part of Rio Olympics' preparations.
Sushila, 24, had captained the Under-21 side to a historic bronze medal in the 2013 Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach. And the latest development is seen as an elevation to the leadership role even in the senior squad, even though centre-half Ritu Rani will take the captain's armband when she returns.
India’s eves will take on Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as a final springboard to the Rio Olympics. The tournament commences on May 30.
All four teams competing in Darwin are in the top echelon of hockey nations with Australia currently ranked third, the Kiwi's fourth, Japan tenth overall and India ranked 13th in the world.
"It is a huge honour, to be named Captain of the squad for the tour," Sushila said in a release.
"We have already faced Japan and New Zealand earlier, at the Hawke's Bay Cup. Our chief aim will be to perform well against Japan and Australia and analyse their game at close quarters, since they are in our pool at the Olympics," she added.
The squad for the tournament includes several established players, among them, Deepika has been retained as vice-captain.
Forward Rani Rampal, Poonam Rani and Vanadana Kataria form the core group of seniors who will be hoping to lead the team to a good showing prior to the Games. We may see Rani playing the midfield, due to the absence of Ritu.
The squad also includes youngsters, defender Nikki Pradhan and 18-year-old midfielder Preeti Dubey. Dubey was named the Asunta Lakra Upcoming Player of the Year Award (Women U-21) at the 2nd Annual Hockey India Awards this year.
Talking about the squad announcement, chief coach Neil Hawgood said, "We are looking forward to the tournament. We are up against three world class teams and it will help us immensely in our preparations ahead of the Rio Olympics.
"Additionally, two of those teams are in our Pool in Rio (Australia and Japan). This will serve as good practice.”
Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu
Defenders: Deepika (vice-captain), Sunita Lakra, Nikki Pradhan, Deep Grace Ekka, P. Sushila Chanu (captain), Hnialum Lal Ruat Feli
Midfielders: Rani Rampal, Namita Toppo, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Preeti Dubey, Renuka Yadav
Forwards: Poonam Rani, Vandana Katariya, T. Anuradha Devi Thokchom, Lilima Minz.