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Odisha’s Sunita Lakra to lead Indian women’s hockey team at Asian Champions Trophy

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New Delhi: Experienced defender from Odisha, Sunita Lakra will lead the 18-member Indian women’s squad at the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament to be held in Donghae in South Korea from May 13.

Sunita was handed the captain’s armband in the absence of Rani, who has been rested for the tournament, while goalkeeper Savita will shoulder the responsibility of vice captain, Hockey India said in a statement on Wednesday.

India’s defence is full of experience with Deepika, Deep Grace Ekka, Suman Devi Thoudam and Gurjit Kaur who doubles up as a drag flicker.

The midfield will feature Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur and Udita. India’s attack will be led by Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Anupa Barla.

The Indians, who go into the tournament as defending champions, will be hoping to ride on the good show at the recently held Commonwealth Games in Australia where they entered the semi-inals after 12 years but eventually finished fourth.

In 2016, the Indian team defeated China in the final to win the previous edition of Asian Champions Trophy.

They followed up this victory with a successful outing at the 2017 Asia Cup where they beat China again in the final.

This year, the team will begin their campaign against Japan on May 13.

“We were very disappointed after losing the CWG semi-final by a close margin to Australia. We knew it was our best chance to make the medal round. Against England too we didn’t perform the way we had planned but we carry a lot of confidence and heart from these matches against tougher teams like England and Australia,” Sunita said.

“While fitness and speed has been a major focus point in all our camps, we are also working hard in terms of goal conversion and improving our attack. While the team is of mostly experienced players, we also have talented youngsters who are eager to contribute to the team’s success and help us defend the title,” the 27-year-old added.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Savita (vice captain), Swati

Defenders: Deepika, Sunita Lakra (captain), Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Suman Devi Thoudam

Midfielders: Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Udita

Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Anupa Barla

(IANS)