<
>

Indian women's hockey tour of China cancelled due to Coronavirus outbreak

Most of India's women's hockey team come from wide swathe of northern and eastern India. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

The outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus has forced the Indian women's hockey team to cancel its tour of China, leaving the federation with the difficult task of finding an opponent to compete with as part of its preparation for the Olympics.

The Indian women's team was scheduled to travel to China from March 14 to 25. However, due to the fast-spreading disease, that has killed over 636 people and infected at least 31,161, the tour has now been cancelled.

"We had to travel to China but that has been cancelled due to the virus. So a lot of teams are also not available to play with because they are participating in the Pro hockey league," Indian skipper Rani Rampal told PTI. "Hockey India and our coaches are working out whom to play," she added.

All the top teams, including Argentina, Belgium, Australia, Germany, China, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand and United States are busy competing in the FIH Pro Hockey League.

With less than five months left for the Olympics, match practice is crucial for preparing for the quadrennial event. "For good preparation, you need to play with good teams," Rani said.

After the tour of New Zealand that ended on Wednesday, the Indian team is scheduled to go through a four-week training and conditioning camp from February 16 to March 14.

With uncertainty looming over the schedule, the women's team will be left with three weeks of free time before they again head to a training and preparatory camp on April 6.

Last year, the Indian women's team booked an Olympic berth by defeating USA in the Bhubaneswar leg of the 2019 FIH Olympic Qualifiers. This will only be their third appearance at the Olympics.