‘Dhanraj Pillay of women’s hockey’: Ex-captain rues Rampal’s absence from CWG | Hockey – SportsMediaz

With Rani Rampal failing to make the cut for India’s 18-member women’s hockey team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games 2022, fans and experts will be eagerly waiting to see how the Janneke Schopman-led side fares in Birmingham without their star striker. The 27-year-old is undoubtedly the main cog in Indian women’s hockey but injuries have kept her on the bench for almost a year. She featured against Belgium last month in her comeback match, but was then rested for rest of the Pro League’s European leg matches. She missed out on the bronze-medal winning performances at the Asia Cup and Pro League too. Her poor luck didn’t just end there, as she wasn’t included in the Women’s FIH Hockey World Cup 2022 and CWG squad. In her absence, India failed to dominate in the World Cup and finished a measly joint-ninth with China. Without the Padma Shri awardee, Vandana Katariya was the team’s top-scorer in the tournament with three goals.

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Speaking to Hindustan Times during a media interaction, former men’s hockey captain Viren Rasquinha called her the ‘Dhanraj Pillay of women’s hockey for India’. The 41-year-old also explained that it would be hard to replace Rampal but feels that Schopman ‘still has a very good forward line’. “Yeah, I think I have two thoughts on that. One is Rani has undoubtedly been one of India’s best hockey players ever. You can never replace that sort of caliber and experience overnight. So what Rani has done from the age of 14-15 years for India has been really unbelievable. She has scored so many crucial goals for the country. She is in a way almost Dhanraj Pillay of women’s hockey for India”, he said.

“So it’s always hard to replace them. But the other thing about sport is that you have to move on in life and Rani is not over. She currently has an injury.”

“The nature of the sport is such that injuries can happen to anyone and anytime. So I’m sure she’ll come back in due course. She will perform at a high level and it’s an opportunity for other players to perform. It’s an opportunity for other players to play a major tournament for their country. Finally hockey is always a team sport and it’s up to everyone to contribute.”

The Mumbai native also noted that the likes of Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami and Navneet had the calibre to lead the forward line-up in Rampal’s absence. “We still have a very good forward line in Vandana, Navneet, Lalremsiami, Sharmila. You know we have attacking midfielders like Neha, who is such an excellent player. So it’s a collective responsibility of the team to get goals and I think the Indian women’s hockey team definitely has the arsenal and the capability and the talent to manage without Rani Rampal”, he concluded.

India have been placed in Group A for CWG 2022, alongside England, Canada, Wales and Ghana. In Rampal’s absence, goalkeeper Savita Punia will be leading the side. For their first match, India will face Ghana on July 29. The group stages will be held from July 29 to August 4, after which the top-two sides from each group will go into the semi-finals, while the third-placed outfits will feature in the fifth-place playoff.

Watch the LIVE coverage of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on SONY SIX, SONY TEN 1, SONY TEN 2, SONY TEN 4 (English) & SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels starting from 28th July 2022 at 11:30 pm IST.

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