Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: Experienced hockey defender from Odisha Sunita Lakra has been selected to lead the 18-member Indian women's team for the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy Hockey Tournament to be played in Korea from May 13. The 27-year-old Sundergarh girl will be leading the team in absence of Rani Rampal who has been rested for the tournament.
Along with Sunita, four other players from the State- Deep Grace Ekka, Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz and Anupa Barla have also found a place in the national side for the prestigious competition.
“We were very disappointed after losing the Semi Final match in Commonwealth Games by a close margin to hosts Australia. We knew it was our best chance to make the medal round," said the newly-appointed captain.
Speaking about the preparations for the upcoming competition, Sunita said, "While fitness and speed have been the major focus points in all our camps, we are also working hard in terms of goal conversion and improving our attack. While the team mostly comprises experienced players, we also have talented youngsters who are eager to contribute to the team’s success and help us defend the title."
Goalkeeper Savita will be Sunita's deputy while Swati is the stand-in goalkeeper in the Indian team. Skipper Sunita Lakra and another experienced defender from Odisha Deep Grace Ekka will be the main stay in the defense line-up of the Indian side along with Deepika, Gurjit Kaur and Suman Devi.
Namita Toppo and Lilima Minz, the two mid-fielders who are getting constant opportunities at the international level will be shouldering the responsibility in the middle of the turf with other senior players like Nikki Pradhan and Navjot Kaur.
Anupa Barla has found a place in the Indian team this time after missing out of the Commonwealth Games and a couple of tournaments prior to that. She will be seen in the forward line-up which will be led by Vandana Katariya in presence of Lalremsiami and Navneet Kaur.
Team India will start its campaign in Asian Champions Trophy from May 13 against Japan.
Earlier this year, Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo, Deep Grace Ekka and Lilima Minz from Odisha were picked in the Indian Women’s Hockey team that finished fourth in the prestigious Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia from April 4 to April 15. India entered the semi-finals of the Games after a hiatus of 12 years.
Savita (VC) and Swati
Deepika, Sunita Lakra (C), Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur and Suman Devi Thoudam
Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Udita and Navjot Kaur
Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Anupa Barla