Action all set to unfold

Delhi Waveriders to take on Warriors in opener

Action    all set to unfold

The much-anticipated Hockey India League (HIL) finally goes off the mark on Monday promising the sport a much deserved recognition, financial rewards and stardom.

Probably, there can’t be a better place to initiate a change in the sport than India. Despite its steadily shrinking fan base, India, an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, offers hope and following to revive the fortunes of hockey.

“HIL will be successful. It will help to grow hockey in the country. With top international and Indian players playing, it will be a very tight competition. It will be a test of skill, stamina and planning,” Zafar Iqbal, member of India’s 1980 Olympic gold winning team and advisor to Jaypee Punjab Warriors, told Deccan Herald.

“There is also a good amount of money involved. Even though we can’t compare it to other sports, some of the players have got good financial returns. Such leagues should continue to prosper in the future,” he said.

Based on the successful model of Twenty20 leagues, HIL aims to woo the fans, especially the youngsters, and raise the profile of the players. Just like in cricket when Indian Premier League eliminated the “rebel” Indian Cricket League, HIL follows the launch of unauthorised World Series Hockey (WSH) , an event based on the same format, that started last year.

The 34-match HIL has the blessing of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and roped in top stars from other countries for the five city-based franchises -- Delhi Waveriders, Mumbai Magicians, Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Ranchi Rhinos and Uttar Pradesh Wizards -- for next four weeks till February 10. Each squad comprises of 10 foreign players and 14 Indians.

The HIL has also hired some of best coaches in the world including Australians Ric Charlesworth and Barry Dancer, and Roelant Oltmans of the Netherlands.

The opening match between Waveriders and Punjab Warriors at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium will be preceded by an opening ceremony. Waveriders are led by none other than India captain Sardar Singh.

The team has AK Bansal as its coach and former India captain Ajit Pal Singh as advisor. Waveriders call themselves a well balanced unit and take pride in their purchase of world-class goalkeepers -- Germany’s Nicolas Jacobi and Dutch Pirmin Blaak. Simon Child and Gurbaj Singh and young Rupiner Pal Singh are other big names. However, they will miss the presence of Dutch drag-flick specialist Taeke Taekema.

“The senior players along with the coaches and the chief advisor have already had sessions where we have talked about strategy and game-plans. A week’s training has helped us and we are confident of a good show," Sardar said.

Warriors, on the other hand, are coached by experienced Dancer and have six Australian players including the star Jamie Dwyer who leads the side. They have an equally good goalkeeper in Jaap Stockmann of the Netherlands. SV Sunil and Shivendra Singh are among the top Indian players in the side.

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