Battle of equals as Hero Hockey India League to begin tomorrow
New Delhi, Hockey lovers across the world would be treated to a mouth-watering outlay of high quality hockey with the inaugural edition of the Hero Hockey India League set to kick off with the opening encounter between Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the Major DhyanChand National stadium here on Monday.
The tournament, conceptualised by Hockey India and sanction by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), will see five teams to compete for top honour.
On paper, there is hardly anything to choose between the five squads that boast of the world’s best 120 players and even the bookmakers would find it difficult to pick a clear favourite at the start of the tournament, which will be played in a home-away format over the next one month.
Each team consists of 14 Indian and 10 foreign players and national coach Michael Nobbs has already underlined the importance of the tournament for the future of Indian hockey saying it would be a great opportunity for youngsters – either playing or watching the league – to learn from the foreign internationals and also rekindle the magic of hockey in India.
And that’s something that the other foreign coaches involved in the tournament feel too.
“This tournament offers some of the young Indian players to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world. Getting the experience for them that will only benefit the game locally. This tournament will be interesting because you are tested by having to use your full squad and plus the quality of the reserve players that is critical,” says Ric Charlesworth, coach of Mumbai Magicians.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards’ Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans feels the five-team city-based HIL will give a big boost to Indian hockey and the event will be a blessing in disguise for the domestic players. “I feel HIL will have a great contribution to the future of Indian hockey. The important thing is that Indian players will get the opportunity to train and play alongside and against the best players in the world. They will learn from them. The most important thing is to learn to develop yourself,” says the Dutchman.
At the same time, none of the think tank is losing focus on the immediate task ahead, which is to win the League.
Delhi Waveriders’ skipper Sardar Singh believes that the experienced players in the squad have a role in driving the team to excel. “The senior players along with the coaches and the chief advisor have already had sessions where we have talked about strategy and game-plans. The onus will be on the players to perform because a coach can only guide us. A K Bansal and AjitPal Singh have a wealth of experience and we are not missing a foreign coach,” Sardar says.
“I am looking forward to working with Ranchi Rhinos as a coach and I am hungry to win this inaugural tournament. India has the best hockey talent available in the world which we will utilise to build a strong team in the inaugural season of HIL,” is how Gregg Clark, puts it.
While national coach Nobbs is already looking at the future, the team management of Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors would not want to look beyond the opening round clash as they aim to launch their campaign on a winning note.
All in all, the hockey fans in India are set for an absolute treat for a month, and the show begins on Monday evening.