Lions confident of good display

Karnataka Lions, one of the franchises of the ambitious World Series Hockey, said they were confident of putting up a good show despite the unlikelihood of star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh participating.

Sandeep, who pumped in 16 goals in the just-concluded FIH Olympic Qualifiers, has decided to give the lucrative league a miss along with the rest of his successful Indian team-mates.

“We’ve not got any official clarification from Sandeep so far,” said Kingshuk Gupta, director of Sporting Ace, the owners of the Bangalore franchise, at a press conference here on Tuesday to unveil the team jersey.

“As you all are aware, a lot of discussions are happening right now and we’ve heard from the media that the entire Indian team would not be participating in the league because it’s being conducted by Hockey India’s rival body, the Indian Hockey Federation.

“We’ve had enough. No matter who comes or not, the franchises have decided to go ahead with the league. We are very confident of pulling out a good show. We are confident of our team Karnataka Lions’ chances too.”

Coach Jude Felix said while the team would miss Sandeep, there was enough bench strength that could do defensive duties. “Pakistani players Adnan Maqsood and Zeeshan Ashraf are expected to join the team tomorrow and that will really strengthen the defence.

We also have a lot of young players who are willing to grab the opportunity. We’ve been training hard for the last couple of weeks and with most teams equally balanced, it should be an exciting contest.”

Giving his take on the whole controversy behind the Indian team backing out at the last minute, veteran striker Dhanraj Pillay said the players should be brave enough to make bold decisions.

“The players should realise that without them, India can’t field a proper team for the Olympics. They should take their own decisions and not be influenced by the administrators. The national game is suffering and events like the WSH is a great way of promoting it.

“Hockey currently is plagued by dirty politics. The franchises have invested a lot of money to get this event going. Sadly, HI is standing in the way and working behind the scenes.”

Meanwhile, Gupta ruled out taking legal action against players if they didn’t honour their contracts. “I know it is a possibility. But we are behind the players. We don’t want to mess things up. As I said earlier, if they want to be a part of us, they can. But if they wish not to, we can’t do anything.”

The Lions kick-start their campaign away against Delhi Wizards on March 2 before taking on Sher-E-Punjab at Jalandhar the following day.

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