Bhubaneswar, March 22 (IANS) In a squad with experienced players Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi and Ishika Chaudhary and many youngsters, skipper Salima Tete sees her role as a bridge between the players and take the team together at the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup 2021, which will be held in Potchefstroom, South Africa from April 1.
Salima will lead the 20-member Indian junior women’s hockey team in the tournament, which was postponed to 2022 due to the omicron threat in South Africa. India will start their campaign at the Northwest University grounds against Wales in their first game of the season on April 2.
While Ishika Chaudhary will be Salima’s deputy in the event, Lalremsiami and Sharmila will be experienced players who will be the fulcrum of the attack.
“As a captain, I will look to help my teammates at any point they need me to step in. I will also look to make good combinations with the players,” Salima said at a virtual press conference organised by Hockey India on Tuesday.
Salima opened up on her role as the captain and how the team has been preparing for the marquee event.
“We have a few experienced players in our team including Lalremsiami, Sharmila, and Ishika Chaudhary. We will all discuss together how we can take the team forward and improve our game together. My role will be to take the team together alongside me,” she said.
Several youngsters including Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Deepika, Sangita Kumari, Bichu Devi Kharibam, made their senior team debuts at the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22. Salima explained how this experience has helped the team ahead of the Women’s Junior World Cup.
“We had a practice match with the senior team, which really helped us a lot. A lot of players in our squad also received opportunities to make their debuts at the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22. We have taken full advantage of these opportunities to motivate ourselves and be ready for the tournament. We have also had some very good training sessions and everyone has been really helpful in grooming this team,” Salima said.
The Indian team is grouped in Pool D along with Germany, Malaysia, and Wales. After the Welsh challenge on April 2, India will face Germany on April 3 and will play their last group-stage match on April 5 against Malaysia.
Despite the strong competition in the group stage, vice-captain Ishika Chaudhary said she is confident about being included in the leadership group and explained the reasons for the same.
“I feel confident of being named as the vice-captain of the team. We have a lot of support from every corner. We have been playing together for some time. As a team, we have a good understanding. We are also young, so we are very excited and full of energy. Hence, I know I have the support system that I need to help me with the responsibility and I cannot wait for the tournament to begin,” Ishika said.
Lalremsiami, who has been an integral part of the India senior women’s team for the past few years now, also spoke on how her experience of playing at the senior level will help her and the team in the prestigious event.
“I have played with the senior women’s team for some time now, but I am grateful to receive the opportunity to be a part of the junior women’s team for the tournament. I know what my role is in the team and I always want to help all my teammates. I would look to guide my teammates as much as I can do,” she said.
“There are a few players in our team who don’t have as much game experience. My role would be to guide these players and to help them adapt to the pressure. I will look to help the team in recognising when we have to go for the attack, and when we need to defend, and will take any and every responsibility that comes my way,” the 20-year-old added.
The tournament was originally slated to take place in December 2021. Sharmila Devi spoke on the four-month break and said that the delay helped the team as they got time to work on areas where they needed to improve upon.
“The four-month break has been sort of an advantage as it gives us more time for practice and to prepare ourselves for the World Cup. We have worked on our PC defence a lot in this time, which was one area that we needed to improve on. The training sessions that we have had in this time have also been really helpful and we have developed a greater bond between us as players. We all are really motivated and feel like we can give our 100 percent at the World Cup,” she said.