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Savita Punia to lead India women’s hockey team at CWG

Sixteen of the 18 players that will take part at the World Cup will also be heading to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games as Hockey India (HI) announced the women’s squad on Thursday.

The 18-member team will be led by goalkeeper Savita Punia with defender Deep Grace Ekka as her deputy. Rajani Etimarpu will be the second goalkeeper with Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan and Udita as well in defence. Midfield responsibilities will be shouldered by Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur and Salima Tete while the forward line will feature Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi and Sangita Kumari.

Only goalkeeper Bichu Devi Kharibam and Sonika, who are part of the squad for the World Cup from July 1-17 in Spain and Netherlands, will not be heading for the multidisciplinary Games as they have been replaced by Rajani Etimarpu and Sangita Kumari. India’s talismanic forward Rani Rampal, who is yet to recover from her hamstring injury, has been left out.

“We have chosen an experienced side for the Commonwealth Games and the players believe they have a good shot at a medal this time. The team is upbeat after a good outing in the FIH Pro League and understand very well that the expectations are also high,” India chief coach Janneke Schopman said. “We would have finished our World Cup campaign only days before the CWG so it was very essential for us to pick a physically fit team as the recovery time between the two events is just about 10 days.”

India have been placed in Pool A at the CWG where will they begin their campaign against Ghana (July 29) before facing Wales (July 30), hosts England (August 2) and Canada (August 3). The top-2 teams will qualify for the semi-finals.

In their previous outing at CWG in Gold Coast 2018, India had finished fourth. Their best finish was winning gold in Manchester 2002.

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