HIL: New scoring rules

The new rules stipulate that every field goal would count as two in the fourth edition of the competition starting on January 18.

"We all are committed to the teams we are representing," says V. R. Raghunath, who will lead the U.P. Wizards.   -  Getty Images

Having played together for the past three years, the open auctions for the fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) meant disruption of the team compositions. While some of the franchises tried to retain their core group, others decided to go in for a fresh combination in search of the title.

It was interesting to see former team-mates take to the stage during the HIL trophy unveiling here on Thursday as rivals for the captains’ press meet. “This is not a question for us, it is for the owners to answer,” V. R. Raghunath, leading UP Wizards after being one of the six players retained by the side, said. “But seriously, I think we all are committed to the teams we are representing. It does feel a bit awkward but now that the teams have been formed, we will try to give our best,” he added.

His former team-mate Nikkin Thimmaiah, now with Dabang Mumbai, said he was looking forward to getting past Raghunath to score. Talismanic German Moritz Fuerste, who missed out on the previous edition and became the highest paid player during the auctions for Kalinga Lancers, hoped to be lucky in Bhubaneswar. “We won the 2014 Champions Trophy and the crowds were amazing with their support for Germany and I hope they continue to be the 12th man for us during the HIL as well,” he said.

The man who replaced him at Ranchi Rays, Ashley Jackson, admitted they were big boots to fill and hoped to continue the good work after helping the team to its second title in three years in 2015.

The reason for that overwhelming support was the presence of Pakistan in the final and the talk shifted to the absence of Pakistan players from HIL. While both Fuerste and Jackson said the organiser should work out a solution to ensure the presence of the best players from any part of the world, Jaypee Punjab Warriors’ Sardar Singh was categorical in his support for Hockey India’s decision to bar players from across the border.

“What happened at the Champions Trophy (2014) was unacceptable and as far as I know, they still haven’t apologised. Unless that happens, I support the federation’s decision,” he said. A few Pakistan players had made obscene gestures at the crowd after defeating India in the semifinal then.

New scoring rules for the HIL have generated excitement and while drag-flickers like Jackson and Raghunath made their displeasure evident, Sardar said it was the same for every team. The new rules stipulate that every field goal would count as two in the fourth edition of the competition starting on January 18.

While Sardar expected teams to be more attacking, Jackson and Raghunath felt it could be the other way round as well with teams becoming more defensive to avoid conceding. “I don’t know about the international arena but for the HIL it’s a fun concept and hopefully will be entertaining as well,” Raghunath said.