Bengaluru, March 27: In the absence of injured Rani Rampal, seasoned goalkeeper Savita Punia will lead an 18-member Indian women's hockey team for the five-match series against Malaysia starting on April 4.
The eight-day tour to Kuala Lumpur will have defender Deep Grace Ekka as Savita's deputy while Rajani Etimarpu has joined the squad as the second goalkeeper.
The defence will include youngster Salima Tete, Reena Khokar, Ekka, Rashmita Minz, and Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam along with Sunita Lakra, who is making a comeback into the squad after missing the Spain Tour, according to a Hockey India release.
Hockey India announced the 18-member Indian Women’s Hockey Team for the upcoming 8-day tour in Kuala Lumpur, starting 4th April 2019. Savita, the experienced goalkeeper, will lead the team during the 5–match series.— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) March 27, 2019
Read more: https://t.co/P4h2PZUigf #IndiaKaGame pic.twitter.com/kEHkvNQx1e
In the midfield, the experienced Monika returns from injury to join Karishma Yadav, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz.
The forwardline includes Jyoti, Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur and Navneet Kaur.
Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said in the absence of Rani, the experienced Namita Toppo and dragflicker Gurjit Kaur will have to step up their performance.
The Dutchman added that it would also be an opportunity for the youngsters to strengthen their future prospects.
"Young players get to show their best performance on international level and it's important for us in case of creating depth in the selection," he said.
Speaking about the tour ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifying events, Marijne said, "One of the things we wanted to improve after the Spain Tour was our One Vs One defending and create more opportunities after we intercept the ball."
"These are the two key areas we want to focus on in Malaysia and we keep working on individual consistency of players."
(With PTI inputs)