Midfielder Toppo returns to Indian set-up for England tour

The 24-year-old was sidelined after suffering a knee injury at the 2018 Asian Games.

By Naveen Peter ·

Midfielder Namita Toppo will return to the Indian hockey women’s squad after a lengthy injury layoff and in time to embark on their tour of England later this month.

Toppo had injured her meniscus - in other words, knee cartilage - at the 2018 Asian Games, that kept her away from the pitch for almost a year.

Returning to the mix after the long break, the Odisha player sounded confident of contributing to the side in their upcoming tour. “It’s been a few difficult months for me. I am happy that I am back in the mix,” she told the Olympic Channel.

“The team has improved in the past months and I think I can bring my experience to work and take us further. Especially against Great Britain, a top-quality team.”

Apart from Toppo, the midfield will also feature Sushila Chanu, Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz.

The team will be led by striker Rani Rampal with goalkeeper Savita will be her deputy.

Head coach Sjoerd Marijne has included the likes of Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur and Sharmila Devi (the youngster who made her international debut during the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo) as his goal-scoring options.

The defensive responsibilities will rest on the likes of Deep Grace Ekka, drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar and Salima Tete.

Prep for American challenge

Speaking about his team’s composition, Marijne stated that it was important to have a good blend of youth and experience in the side as it has helped them achieve positive results in the past.

In a media statement released by Hockey India he said:

“The balance and mixture of players in our team remain the same from previous tournaments as we go into an important phase in our objective of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. We still have ten days of training before we leave for the matches in England, and I am sure these matches will serve as good preparation for our vital Olympic qualifiers against the USA in November”

The Dutchman was also happy to have Toppo back in the squad. “It is good to have Namita back in the squad for the first time since Asian Games 2018, and she has given us confidence in training to select her for the upcoming tour," he said.

The Indian women's hockey team for the upcoming tour of England. Image courtesy: Hockey India

The Indian eves will be involved in a five-match series against Great Britain from September 27 to October 4, and Marijne believes that the trip is a must for the side ahead of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers.

“I think both the Great Britain team and the USA play with a similar approach to their game, so it is beneficial for us to be playing against a strong opponent in their own backyard. Our focus is on preparing well for the matches in England, but our main objective will remain to finalise some points we can improve from the Olympic Test Event as we go into the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha," he explained.

India has been drawn to play the World No. 13 USA in a two-legged tie on November 1 and 2, with the winner booking their place at Tokyo.2020.

The Squad

Goalkeepers: Savita (VC), Rajani Etimarpu

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar, Salima Tete

Midfielders: Sushila Chanu, Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Namita Toppo

Forwards: Rani (C), Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Sharmila Devi