London: It will be historic day for the Odisha quartet Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo and Lilima Minz when they feature in the Indian team who will take on England in the Group B encounter of the Women’s Hockey World Cup here, Saturday.
The Odisha eves are regular members of the national side for past few years and are expected to make their World Cup debut. All the four were a part of the team who finished runners-up in the recently-concluded Asian Champions Trophy with Sunita leading the side.
Speaking on this occasion, India captain Rani said that the pressure will be on hosts and not India. “The pressure will be on England and not on us,” stated Rani on the eve of the match.
“Yes they will have the home advantage but we are not new to playing in front of big crowds. We have done well against England before. We will carry the confidence after doing well in our recent tournaments including the CWG where we had beaten England,” added Rani.
India’s last appearance at the FIH World Cup was in 2010 when the tournament was played in Argentina. Rani then was the cynosure of India’s ninth-place performance as she had scored seven goals for the team during the course of the tournament.
While there will be a lot riding on Rani during this edition too, she has a unit that have dished out confidence-inspiring performances over the past two years where India even climbed to a career-best ranking of World No.10.
“The team, especially the forward-line do not depend on Rani alone anymore to score goals. We have young strikers including the experienced Vandana Katariya with 200 plus international caps who have scored on multiple occasions for the team,” pointed out coach Sjoerd Marijne. “Then there is Gurjit Kaur who is one of the best drag-flickers in the world and certainly an advantage for us,” he added.
After having arrived in London a week prior to the start of the tournament, the Indians have had good training sessions at the event venue Lee Valley Hockey and tennis stadium, including two practice matches against Australia and Belgium.
“We had good match practice against two of the top teams in the world. Everyone is upbeat and excited ahead of the first match and right now, our only focus is to do well,” signed off Rani.