Indian hockey eves to embark on US tour

New Delhi:The Indian women's hockey team led by newly-appointed captain Sushila Chanu will play a total of five practice games against Canada and US as part of the last leg of their preparations for next month's Rio Olympics. The squad will leave for the US on Friday, and play three practice games against Canada and two against the US. The tour is the last of the many international exposure matches planned ahead of the Olympics. Apart from Sushila and vice-captian Deepika Thakur, the squad includes a host of experienced players like Navjot Kaur, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika, Nikki Pradhan, and Vandana Katariya. "We have selected the best players for the squad who have earned their place purely on the basis of merit. These players have put forth their best performance, have displayed hunger and trained hard for the spot," chief coach Neil Hawgood said in a statement. "This is the first time this team is going to experience the aura of being at the Olympics, it is a big moment for all of them. Each athlete in the team is both physically and mentally strong for the task ahead of us," he added. Sushila asserted that the players are determined to put their best foot forward at the Olympics. "While this is the happiest moment for us to be a part of the Olympics for the first time, there is an equal amount of responsibility. Every match before Rio is crucial and gives an opportunity to reinforce what we have learnt during the training," she remarked.  "This tour will serve as the apt warm-up for Rio Olympics and every step from here takes us closer to turn the dream into a reality. Each player has only one mission on their mind and the Coach has given us immense support and confidence. Now it is our turn to play our best," the captain added.