New Delhi: With new-found aggression and tactics up their sleeves, the Indian women's hockey team on Tuesday departed for the five-match Test series against New Zealand starting in Midlands from May 14.
The Indian women play the Test Series in New Zealand after a successful outing in West Vancouver, Canada where they won the Women's Hockey World League Round 2 and qualified for the Women's Hockey World League Semi Final to be played in Johannesburg.
The team led by Rani features an experienced mix with the likes of Sushila Chanu, Ritu Rani, Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Vandana Katariya, Namita Toppo, Sunita Lakra, Navjot Kaur, Lilima Minz, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Nikki Pradhan, Savita among others.
The team also has new dragflickers in Gurjit Kaur, newcomer Reena Khokhar who made her debut against Belarus in the Five-match Test Series earlier this year and Udita, who will be making her debut.
"There is a lot of difference in how we play now. I believe we have improved in our fitness, technique and man- to-man marking," said Rani ahead of their departure.
"New Zealand Tour will be a good preparatory tour for us ahead of the World League Semi Final and this exposure will help us improve and also understand our weak points."
The team, under newly-appointed Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne, began the season with a 5-0 win against Belarus in Bhopal.
"Playing five times against a higher ranked team like New Zealand will open up areas that we require to work on in the next three months ahead of the World League Semi Final," said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
The team's performance has been on an upswing post Rio Olympics last year. They were crowned champions at the 4th Women's Asian Champions Trophy apart from a series of wins this year.
Marijne feels a good outing in New Zealand will only help the Indian eves to improve their confidence level ahead of the event in Johannesburg which also happens to be a World Cup qualifier.
"Playing with good pace, handling pressure in crunch situations and coming up with really good defence apart from emphasis on fitness was some of the focus areas during the 21 -day camp in Bengaluru," he said.
"I believe if we work our plans well then we stand a good chance against New Zealand."