Meet the Indian women’s hockey team currently fighting for the World Cup
They need your support
Cricket overshadows most sports in India and women’s teams get even less public attention. So if your first and last memory of women’s hockey is Chak De! India, it’s time to change that. The Indian women’s hockey team is currently participating in the World Cup for the first time in eight years. From the present squad, no other player apart from skipper Rani Rampal and Deepika Thakur have ever played at this level. The team has been putting up a spirited performance at the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup in London.
Here are the 18 team players:
The captain of the team is the only Indian to be nominated for the FIH Women’s Young Player of the Year Award. Born in Haryana, her father was a cart-puller who initially opposed the idea of his daughter taking up a sport. She fought her family and community and made it to the top. Inspiring is the only word for Rampal.
The vice-captain and goalkeeper is being called one of the best goalkeepers India has seen. Also from Haryana, it was her grandfather who nudged her towards hockey even though Punia was not too serious about the game. Today, the 27-year-old has been a part of the winning team at Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in 2016 and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 27-year-old is also a goalkeeper. Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, she was part of the team that won the 9th Women’s Asia Cup 2017. The Railways has employed her as a ticket collector in Mumbai.
Only passion would have got Thakur back in time for the World Cup after dealing with injuries that required a 10-month recovery period. The 31-year-old defender has previously played in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010.
Lakra has been the captain for the Asian Champions Trophy 2018 and is considered the backbone of the team. The 26-year-old defender from Odisha made her debut in the national team in 2009.
Deep Grace Ekka
She has been part of various winning teams like the one at Women`s Junior Hockey World Cup 2013 and Women’s Asia Cup in 2013. The 23-year-old is said to be one of the best defenders in the national team.
Born to a farming family in Punjab, Kaur discovered the sport while in boarding school. The 22-year-old defender played a crucial part in the team’s win at the 9th Women’s Asia Cup in Japan, where she scored eight goals.
Picking up a bronze in the junior nationals in 2010 in Sonepat got Malik noticed as a midfielder. She’s been part of the 2014 Asian Games and also the 9th Women’s Asia Cup 2017.
She has represented India at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, Incheon Asian Games in 2014, and the 9th Women’s Asia Cup in 2017. The 22-year-old midfielder was one of the four players who were made to sit on the floor of the train while returning to their homes from the Rio Olympics because they were not provided confirmed tickets. This, despite the fact that she is a railway employee.
She was the first woman hockey player from Jharkhand to play for India at the Olympics. The 24-year-old midfielder has time and again battled injuries but always managed bounced back.
The 21-year-old midfielder from Haryana has overcome major financial obstacles to pursuing hockey. Her father worked as a daily wage labourer while her mother was a domestic help and affording a hockey kit was beyond their means. She first represented India at the Junior Asia Cup in 2011 when she was 14.
She was first noticed at the National Rural Games in 2009 when Odisha won. Today, the 23-year-old midfielder has played for Indian National team in more than 100 matches, making her a veteran.
She has been the top scorer at the U-18 Asia Cup, which gives you an idea of the kind of the kind of forward she is. The 23-year-old hails from Haryana, and is inspired by fellow players Jasjit Kaur and Rani Rampal.
She was named the Player of the Tournament at the Asian Champions Trophy 2018. The forward from Uttarakhand brings a lot of experience with her – she has played over 200 matches.
She scored four goals at the Asia Cup where India won the trophy, and a hat-trick at the Asian Champions Trophy. The 22-year-old forward was also part of the team that won bronze at the 2013 Junior World Cup.
At 18, she’s the youngest player of the team. Hailing from a family of agriculturists in Mizoram, she has played a crucial role in India’s success at the 2017 Asia Cup. She goes by the nickname Saimi.
The 20-year-old midfielder led the U-18 Indian team to the Asia Cup, where it reached the final. She started off by playing handball in school because there was a court nearby. She turned to hockey after the handball coach didn’t show up three days in a row. Maybe she was destined for the game.
As a child, she was focused on studying hard and doing well in academics. She wasn’t very interested in sports but upon her friends’ urging, attended a hockey selection trial. A couple of years down the line, she was hooked. Today, the 24-year-old forward from Chandigarh is determined to give the World Cup her best.
Images courtesy: www.hockeyindia.org