Janneke Schopman, head coach of the Indian women's hockey team, has indicated that former captain Rani Rampal has been dropped from the FIH Women's Nations Cup because she's not part of the group that's the best fit for the team 'right now' - but left the door open for a comeback.
Without going into specific details about the reasons behind dropping Rampal, Schopman said that the current group of players are the best fit to perform consistently on the field and those who missed out couldn't keep up with the high level.
"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, who was the captain of the Indian team when they finished fourth at the Olympics, has only played one match since the Tokyo Games. She missed the World Cup - where India finished ninth - and the Commonwealth Games - where India won bronze - as she couldn't recover fully from her hamstring injury.
Injury is not a concern for Rampal anymore because she played in the recent National Games, where she helped Haryana win the gold medal. She was the best player in the tournament, scoring 18 goals in six matches.
Along with Rampal, forward Sharmila Devi was also not included in the 20-member squad for the tournament. Sharmila was part of the World Cup and Commonwealth Games but her finishing skills were evidently not up to the mark in both tournaments.
Turning up for Haryana and enjoying every single moment on the pitch at this National Games reminded me once again why I love this game so much and no matter the hardships, aim is always to do well for the team. pic.twitter.com/Bd9RXeczUs
- Rani Rampal (@imranirampal) October 12, 2022
However, Schopman said both players can still make their comeback to the squad. "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."
The FIH Women's Nations Cup is a new tournament in the international calendar, which begin from 11 December in Valencia, Spain. The title winner of this competition will be promoted to the Pro League's 2023-2024 season. India are named in Pool B along with Canada, Japan and South Africa. The other teams in the fray are Ireland, Italy, Korea and Spain who are grouped in pool A.