Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Pritam Rani Siwach has staged a comeback into the Indian team after a five-year gap. The 33-year-old Haryana forward was on Monday named in the Indian team for the Olympic qualifying tournament to be held at Kazan, Russia, from April 19 to 27. Mamta Kharab will lead the team.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Federation (IWHF) announced the team after trials at the SAI Sub-Centre in Lucknow on March 16 and 17. Though a 22-member team has been announced, only an 18-member team will go for the qualifiers.

Belgium, France, Netherlands Antilles, USA and Russia are the other participating countries in the Kazan tournament. The winner will make it to the Beijing Olympics.

High expectations

With the focus having shifted to women’s hockey after the dismal failure of the men to come through the Olympic qualifying tournament in Santiago, Chile, there are high expectations from the team.

Recently, M.K. Kaushik came back to take over the chief coach’s role and now the induction of Pritam Rani, said to be in fighting fit condition, should give the team additional wealth of experience.

Pritam, who runs an academy in Haryana, is in the process of completing a coaching course. She had played last for India in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

“It is the best team available. The way the girls have played in trial matches against boys teams, I am sure they will put up a good performance,” said Kaushik on phone from Lucknow.

The team: Goalkeepers: Dipika Murthy, Marita Tirkey and Poonam Toppo. Defenders: Binita Toppo, Suman Bala (vice captain), Rajwinder Kaur and Pushpa Pradhan.

Midfielders: Subhadra Pradhan, Gagandeep Kaur, Rosalind Ralte, Asunta Lakra, Th. Ranjita and Manorama Devi.

Forwards: Mamta Kharab (captain), Saba Anjum, Surinder Kaur, Jasjeet Kaur, Ritu Rani, Deepika Thakur, Adline Kerketta, Rani Devi and Pritam Rani Siwach.

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