Set to make its debut in the FIH Pro League this season, the Indian women's hockey team players feel the upcoming tournament will not only provide invaluable exposure but will also give them a chance to prepare themselves ahead of next year's Asian Games.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Friday named India and Spain as replacement teams for this season's women's Hockey Pro League after pullouts by Australia and New Zealand.
The third season of the women's FIH Hockey Pro League begins on October 13 with Olympic and world champions the Netherlands taking on Belgium.
India captain Rani Rampal is elated at the opportunity, saying the event will provide them an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best teams of the world ahead of a busy calendar.
"This is great news for us. We have seen how much the exposure at the FIH Hockey Pro League helped our male counterparts. They got to play the best teams of the world, and I believe that helped them take their game to the next level.
"Likewise, the Indian women's team is also looking forward to make the most out of this opportunity," Rani said.
Striker Sharmila Devi, who won the FIH Rising Star of the Year on Thursday, stated that it will be a great opportunity for young players of the side.
"Playing top teams of the world will provide youngsters like me great exposure. Something we wanted to work on before the Asian Games was to perform under pressure. The FIH Hockey Pro League will be a great experience in that aspect," she said.
Experienced goalkeeper Savita Punia believes the exposure will help in increasing the talent pool.
"We have some very talented junior players coming into the core group. Playing regular matches against top teams in the FIH Hockey Pro League will help the team try different combination of players ahead of important tournaments like the Asian Games in 2022 and the FIH Women's World Cup in 2023.
"We believe this experience in the Pro League will help us improve our game further," said Savita, who won the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award.
Two-time Olympian Monika added: "We never got to play top teams like the Netherlands as often as we would have liked to. Before our first match at the
Tokyo Olympics against the world no.1 team, we had played them just once more than three or four years ago.
"But being part of the FIH Hockey Pro League this season will give us the perfect opportunity to test our abilities against top teams."
The Indian women will play on the same dates and venues as their male counterparts, who are already part of FIH's global home-and-away league, which involves most of the top nations of world hockey.