Rani Rampal hasn't been part of the Indian team since January, and there's been no explanation why. But today, the former captain was brought back into the fold to some extent - in a surprise development, she was announced as coach of the soon-to-be-formed Indian national sub-junior (under-17) women's team.
Rani has been vocal about her disappointment at being excluded from the squad, and at not being given any explanation for it by chief coach Janneke Schopmann. "Whatever happened with me wasn't right in the last two years," Rani said. "I came back from an injury, was the top scorer at the National Games but wasn't picked. The best person who can answer this is the chief coach or the selectors because I don't know the answer."
To reiterate her point, she spoke about her future. "I am not retiring since I know I still have more to give to the sport as a player. I have this thing in me to not give up. If I had to, I'd have given up after the Olympics," she said.
Rani, who last represented India in January during the tour of South Africa, said she'd accepted Hockey India's offer since it is only a short-term programme for now, which could eventually be converted into a long-term project.
That the decision seems to be aimed at placating Rani - still the biggest current name in Indian women's hockey - became more clear by Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, who said that he had spoken to Rani, Schopmann and the selectors on her non-selection.
"I have spoken to Rani, who was very upset," Tirkey said. "We can't share all the details but after talking to her, we proposed her the offer to become a coach."
"We can understand Rani isn't in the team and we have asked the coach and selector why such a player isn't included," the former national team defender said. He also said that the Hockey India President and secretary don't interfere in matters of team selections, which are the responsibility of the selectors and coach.
About the two sub-junior teams, Tirkey said that the teams will have a 45-day camp at the Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela. He also said they hoped to continue with Sardar Singh (men's coach) and Rani for three years depending on how they perform.