With a vision to up their performance in the Olympic year, the Indian women’s hockey team left for Auckland, New Zealand for their first tour of the season on Wednesday from Bengaluru.

Under the leadership of captain Rani and her deputy Savita, India will square off against the hosts in four matches and also play against Great Britain during the course of their 10-day tour that concludes February 5.

Rani said positive results against higher-ranked opponents will boost their confidence. “We look forward to playing against higher ranked teams like New Zealand (World No.6) and Great Britain (World No.5). This is our first Tour of the season so naturally we want to do well as it will give us a good boost in our Olympic preparation. A good start against tough teams will matter a lot,” Rani she.

India will play New Zealand Development squad on January 25 followed by two matches against New Zealand national team on 27th and 29th January.

They next play Great Britain on 4 February followed by another match against hosts New Zealand.

“While we have done well in the past against Great Britain, New Zealand is one team we look forward to do well against. They play tough, attacking hockey and they will be quite challenging,” she added.

Rani welcomed the appointment of analytical coach Janneke Schopman. “I think it’s fantastic that she has joined our camp. We are excited to work with her and she knows our team well,” Rani said.