The Indian women's hockey team has come a long way since its semi-final appearance at the Tokyo Olympics. The team managed to finish a creditable third in the FIH Hockey Pro League, that too without their star mid-fielder and former skipper Rani Rampal; due to which the goal-scoring has taken a hit.
Janneke Schopman, head coach of the Indian women's hockey team, has indicated that Rampal is not in the scheme of things for now, but the doors are left open for her comeback. Even though the reason behind this statement is not clear, the coach did hint that Rampal is not the best fit to the type of hockey the team is playing now.
"I don't necessarily like to talk about individual players and why they are not in the squad. There are 13 others who are also not in the team (from 33 probables) and they will be equally disappointed. I pick the team that is competitive and right now the best fit to perform to the best of their abilities. The emphasis is on 'right now'," Schopman said during an interaction with ESPN.
"It's difficult because the level of training at this point is very high, I am very happy with the selection camp we did at the start of September because the group we have now is very competitive. It's tough to make decisions but this is what I came up with, together of course with my staff and the selectors," she said. Rampal last played a match for India in June 2022.
Interestingly, ever since Tokyo, she has only played one match. She missed the World Cup and then the CWG. But what is surprising is that she helped Haryana win the gold at the National Games, where she scored 18 goals in six matches.
Another notable miss from the team is forward Sharmila Devi, who was not at her best during the World Cup and the CWG. "Of course, of course (on comeback). When I pick 33 players, there's a reason for it. If you're picked in the 33 then you have a chance to participate and perform in our team. Unfortunately, we have only so many exposures in a year but I watch every training, I see every movement. I know people are disappointed at the moment, not just the two (Rani Rampal and Sharmila Devi) you mentioned, but all 13. But I am keen, let's push it a little bit more and make my job even harder," Schopman said.
"Both players are very much aware why they are not selected. I know they are very disappointed and it's never about them not working hard enough. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree - but I have conversations with all the 33 (players). Of course, they are disappointed and I understand that. My job as a coach is not the most fun one when you have to make selections."