New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) Striker Rani Rampal will skipper a 20-member Indian women’s hockey squad for the five-match upcoming Test series against New Zealand, starting from May 14 at Midlands.

Veteran defender Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, who is making a comeback after nearly eight months of rehabilitation due to an injury, will shoulder the duties of vice-captain of the side.

The team includes a mix of experienced and the young with the defence line formed by Deep Grace Ekka, Udita, Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo, Sushila and Gurjit Kaur — who also doubles up as the team’s only drag-flicker.

The goal will be kept by Savita, who had a fantastic outing at the Women’s Hockey World League Round 2 where she was adjudged Goal Keeper of the Tournament. Rajani Etimarpu will travel as the second goal keeper in the team.

The midfield will be formed by the experienced Ritu Rani, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan and Reena Khokar. The forwardline features Rani, Vandana Katariya, Preeti Dubey, Sonika and Anupa Barla.

The team has had a great start to the new season with some remarkable wins. After kicking off the year with an emphatic five-match Test Series win against Belarus, the women’s team returned victorious from the Women’s Hockey World League Round 2 beating Chile in the final and securing their berth for the World League Semi Final in June.

Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne, the newly-appointed chief coach for the women’s team, is confident that the New Zealand tour will help the team gain the required exposure ahead of important tournament lined up in June.

“The goal of the tour is to play well against a higher-ranked team and experience on what level we are now. If we can execute the plans we have focused on through the camp, I am confident we can notch up good results. Doing well against a team like New Zealand will bring a lot of confidence to the team,” Marijne said.

Squad:

Goalkeepers — Rajani Etimarpu, Savita;

Defenders — Deep Grace Ekka, Udita, Sunita Lakra, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam (VC), Namita Toppo;

Midfielders — Ritu Rani, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan, Reena Khokar;

Forwards — Rani (Captain), Vandana Katariya, Preeti Dubey, Sonika, Anupa Barla.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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