New Delhi: Ranked seventh, the Indian women’s rugby team is aiming to fly high at the 19th Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8.
India’s campaign starts September 24 against Hong Kong in the morning session, followed by a clash against defending champions Japan in the afternoon session.
Drawn in Pool F alongside Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, India will have to qualify as one of the top two teams to make it to the semifinal.
The final Rugby Sevens squad includes Sheetal Sharma (Captain), Sandhya Rai (Vice Captain), Sweta Shahi, Mama Naik, Kalyani Patil, Vaishnavi Patil, Lachmi Oraon, Dumuni Marndi, Hupi Majhi, Shikha Yadav, Tarulata Naik and Priya Bansal.
Sheetal captained the team that performed well at the recently held Borneo 7’s in Malaysia, where they finished in fourth.
The journey of the girls has been very impressive in the last few years. IANS takes a look at five players who are part of the Asian Games team.
Sheetal Sharma: The captain comes from an athletic background and has been playing rugby for the past eight years, out of which she has represented the country at the Asian level for the past five years. It will be interesting to see how she leads the team in the mega event in China.
Sandhya Rai: The 23-year-old from Saraswatipur, West Bengal, who is the daughter of tea garden labourers, fought massive challenges and extreme sexism to become the ‘unstoppable’ player she is today. Rugby was introduced to Sandhya in 2013, when some players from the Jungle Crows, an amateur rugby team from Kolkata, came to train children in the village.
She got impressed with the sport so much so that she is now a player to watch out for and opponents will keep an eye on her every move.
Tarulata and Mama Naik: Hailing from Keonjhar district in Odisha, both Tarulata and Mama were introduced to rugby in school. They were enthusiastically watching a game as spectators, when the team’s coach asked the girls if they would wish to give the sport a shot.
Today, Mama wears the captain’s armband for both the Indian U-18 and U-20 teams. Tarulata, on the other hand, has also featured in the senior women’s team.
Sweta Shahi: Shweta came from the domestic circuit in Bihar and tackled various stereotypes in her community to represent the country. Shweta has been an integral part of the Indian contingent in the Asian Rugby Sevens series held in Sri Lanka, Dubai, and South Korea.