Rani Rampal-led India women's hockey team leaves for Argentina for first international tour after coronavirus-induced break
The Indian team is scheduled to play four matches against the world number two Argentina side (26, 28, 30, 31 January). Before that, it will play two matches each against Argentina's junior and B sides.
New Delhi: The Indian women's hockey team, led by Rani Rampal, on Sunday left the country for the tour of Argentina, looking to gain international match exposure after nearly a break of one year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian team was forced to train at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru for several months as international competition came to a halt due to the pandemic.
The Indian team is scheduled to play four matches against the world number two Argentina side (January 26, 28, 30, 31). Before that, it will play two matches each against Argentina's junior and B sides.
"It feels amazing to be touring again. We have worked very hard on our game in the last few months and the time has come for us to execute our skills in an international match," skipper Rani said ahead of departure.
"Playing in international matches is going to be a bit different this time, since we will be in a bio bubble, however, the team is excited to be back on the field in the best possible manner at the moment," she said.
Hockey India and the host country's national association have created a bio bubble for both the teams.
The Indian team will stay at a hotel where there will be provisions for separate rooms/halls for all the meals, team meetings and sessions.
The entire Indian contingent underwent a COVID-19 RT-PCR test 72 hours prior to their departure.
Though there is no requirement for quarantine upon arrival in Argentina, the team will still be following all safety and health measures as advised by the respective governments of India and Argentina, a release said.
India's vice captain and goalkeeper Savita thanked Hockey India and SAI for arranging the tour of Argentina.
"We desperately needed to get back into competitive mode as there's not much time left to go for the Olympics. We have been doing well in practice sessions, but an international match is always the real test for any sportsperson," said Savita.
"We are really looking forward to a great tour and hopefully, we start playing to our full potential right from the first match," she added.
How fast this shift comes to be depends on the virus spreads and how immune systems respond to vaccines, the researchers said.
A single scientific visit is unlikely to confirm the origins; it could take years of genetic analysis and epidemiological studies to find an answer.
The decision puts a doubt over next weekend's scheduled third round of games and a meeting to discuss this year's Six Nations, set to start on 6 February