HIL: DWR takes on formidable KL

Kalinga Lancers will have the privilege of playing the first match in front of its passionate home crowd.

BISWARANJAN ROUT

Kalinga Lancers team during a practice game on the eve of its Hockey India League 2017 match against Delhi Waveriders in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

Delhi Waveriders may not have too many big names in its ranks in the fifth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL). But its coach, Cedric D'Souza, is confident of the balance in the side ahead of its opening match at formidable Kalinga Lancers' home, the Kalinga Stadium, here on Sunday.

“There have been quite some changes due to the non-availability of players. That's why we had to go to the reserve pool. We have taken the best available to make our team as strong as possible. Now is the time to deliver goods on the pitch,” said D'Souza, who oversaw a seven-day camp.

Trusted drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh, who has taken over the captaincy, and New Zealand striker Simon Child are long-serving members of the side and will carry forward the team ethos.

Waveriders is strengthened by the presence of seasoned South African Austin Smith, Australian Tristan White and Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch.

Junior World Cup winners, including midfielder Harjeet Singh and forward Mandeep Singh and goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya, give depth to Waveriders, which had finished third in 2016.

Lancers has added more experience to the squad by recruiting Dutch midfield master Billy Bakker and talented Australian Tom Craig. The last year's runner-up has every intention to go one step further this year.

“Possibly we are a little bit better because we have got current internationals in Bakker and Craig. So, that gives us some strike power upfront. The Indian players have improved over the 12 months. Davinder (Walmiki) and S. K. (Uthappa) had a good Olympics and they showed some really good signs. Dipsan (Tirkey, another Junior World Cup winner) at the back also has some good experience,” said Lancers' coach Mark Hager with a lot of optimism.

Lancers, also consisting of the effervescent German Moritz Furste as its captain and the dashing Aussie Glenn Turner, will have the privilege of playing the first match in front of its passionate home crowd.

Nevertheless, Waveriders refused to be bogged down by any pressure. “I love to play under pressure in a packed stadium,” said Rupinderpal.