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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Darwin/Bhubaneswar, June 3:

It couldn’t have got any better for Odisha-born hockey star Deep Grace Ekka on her birthday as she is all set to don the 100th international cap during the team’s final group stage match against Australia in the Four Nations Tournament here tonight.

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Hockey India (HI) today congratulated women’s hockey team defender Deep Grace Ekka for her achieving this milestone.

HI Secretary General Mushtaque Ahmad hailed the youngster for her contributions to the team, which qualified for the Rio Olympics after a long hiatus of 36 years.

“Deep Grace has been part of our path-breaking women team for a long while, and played an integral role in the qualification for the Olympics. It shows her immense talent and passion that at such a young age she has already won 100 caps. I wish her the best for all the future games and hope she continues to shine for the team,” HI Secretary General Mushtaque Ahmad said in a statement.

Ekka, who reached the landmark on her 22nd birthday, made her international debut at the Four Nations Tournament in Argentina (Quilmes and Paraná) in 2011.

Hailing from Lulkidi in Odisha’s Sundargarh district, Ekka was member of the team that won the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World League Round 2 in New Delhi last year besides being a part of the bronze medal winning team at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.

Ekka was 13 when she was selected to join the government-run residential Sundargarh Sports Hostel. The sports hostel is one of the three premier hockey training centres in the district, apart from Panposh Sports Hostel and the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) Hockey Academy both in Rourkela.

It may be mentioned here that the team for the Rio Olympic Games is likely to be name this month, sources said.

THE SQUAD FOR FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT:

GOALKEEPERS: Savita Punia, Rajani Etimarpu.

DEFENDERS: Deepika (vice-captain), Sunita Lakra, Nikki Pradhan, Deep Grace Ekka, Sushila Chanu (captain), Hnialun Lal Ruat Feli.

MIDFIELDERS: Rani Rampal, Namita Toppo, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Preeti Dubey, Renuka Yadav.

FORWARDS: Poonam Rani, Vandana Katarya, Lilima Minz, Anuradha Devi Thokchom.