Mumbai: More than a dozen national stars will be seen in action with the All-India Inter Railway Women's Hockey Championship set to commence at the Mahindra Stadium, here tomorrow. Holders Western Railway will be looking to defend their title against the might of Rail Coach Factory (Kapurthala), whom they beat last year and hosts Central Railway, who seem determined to better their third-place finish this time on home turf.
Western will be served by their Manipuri and adivasi force led by Chanchan Devi, Sanarika Chanu, Pinky Devi, Anupa Barla and Deepa Grace Ekka, whereas Central have the likes of Soundarya, Sushila, Vandana, Rajni, Rashmi and Sandeep, who have donned the national colours, attempting to do the trick of finishing on top at the six-day meet. The teams from the upper parts of the country, Northern and RCF, too have the resources to pose a challenge to the locals.
Ritu Rani, Rani Rampal, Poonam Rani and Joydeep have performed well for the country and they would be keen to see their team Northern Railway on the podium. RCF also look formidable with the presence of Deepika Thakur, Kirandeep Kaur, Anuradha Devi, Amandeep Kaur, Yogita Bali in their ranks. South Eastern Railway, once a strong outfit, have a couple of big names like Asunta Lakra and Lilima Minz for the record.
Tingonglima Chanu and Helen Mary, both goalkeepers who competed with each other for the India spot, will form the brain's trust for Western and Central, respectively. It will be a challenge of sorts for the latter to bring out the best from her team and snatch the title. This would serve as a good parting gift for their mentor - Olympian Eliza Nelson - who is set to retire shortly from service. The semi-finals and finals are scheduled for January 12 and 13 in the afternoon.
The league will be played over a period of three days with two matches each in the morning and afternoon sessions....