HIL: Delhi hopes to register first win at home

While three of the six teams in the fray have already finished with their quota of home games, the remaining three would begin theirs only now, starting with Delhi Waveriders, which takes on defending champion Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the Shivaji Stadium here on Tuesday.

Biswaranjan Rout

What would be the biggest concern for Delhi Waveriders would be its captain and drag-flick expert Rupinderpal Singh, who is yet to convert a penalty corner despite several chances.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

The fifth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) has had a staggered schedule.

While three of the six teams in the fray have already finished with their quota of home games, the remaining three would begin theirs only now, starting with Delhi Waveriders, which takes on defending champion Jaypee Punjab Warriors at the Shivaji Stadium here on Tuesday.

The uneven schedule has meant that the currently last placed Delhi's coach Cedric D'Souza can hope to not just leapfrog the teams above it but also sound confident about his team's abilities, despite yet to win a game this season.

Having won the second edition of the tournament in 2014, Delhi has had a goalless draw and two close losses so far. The team has had a strong defensive structure but its attack has been badly misfiring. The team has managed just two goals — the next best is 13 — but what would be the biggest concern for the team would be its captain and drag-flick expert Rupinderpal Singh, who is yet to convert a penalty corner despite several chances.

“Our team's performance has been good but we didn't convert our chances. We played to the best of our abilities but failed to put in goals. But I believe in my players and I am confident that they will perform to the best of their ability in their home venue tomorrow,” D'Souza said.

Punjab, on the other hand, has a completely contrasting style of play, aggressive and attacking. The team is just two points ahead on fifth position but has a win and 16 goals each scored and conceded against its name. All its games so far have been high-scoring and, despite losing its last outing against Kalinga Lancers 6-5, the team can take hope from the fact that it fought back from being 6-0 down and almost pulled off an upset victory in the final seconds.

“Our style is to play aggressive hockey and the only thing I can confirm is that we will not change. It will be a battle between our attack and Delhi's defence tomorrow," coach Barry Dancer admitted even as he too expressed confidence that the bottom three teams all had enough chances to make the cut for the semifinals.

“We are aware that sometimes the points table lingers in the mind for younger players but we have already spoken about it and decided to concentrate only on doing our best and winning matches one at a time,” Dancer said. Australian veteran Mark Knowles and Sardar Singh both added that as senior players, they make sure that the younger ones do not get fazed by the leaderboard and that the number of matches in hand are always kept in mind."

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