Hockey India League: New season underway

The new ‘Score one, get two’ rule for field goals in the Hockey India League (HIL) may sound like an end-of-the-season-sale offer, but it has caught the imagination of the coaches and players even before its implementation. The novel rule, which is expected to encourage more field goals, will draw a lot of attention when Kalinga Lancers and Uttar Pradesh Wizards lock horns in the opening match of the fourth HIL at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Monday.

Defending champion Ranchi Rays has again chosen a strong midfield, predominantly consisting of Australian and English players   -  PTI

The new ‘Score one, get two’ rule for field goals in the Hockey India League (HIL) may sound like an end-of-the-season-sale offer, but it has caught the imagination of the coaches and players even before its implementation.

The novel rule, which is expected to encourage more field goals, will draw a lot of attention when Kalinga Lancers and Uttar Pradesh Wizards lock horns in the opening match of the fourth HIL at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Monday. Some of the penalty strokes resulting in two goals will also provide some twist to the matches.

Delhi Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza points out that the rule favouring field goals will make matches visually attractive. “It will make the game more tactical. Coaches will have to think out of the box and make sure they plan for the unexpected,” says D’Souza.

Uttar Pradesh Wizards captain V. R. Raghunath, despite being a penalty corner specialist, feels the two-goal rule should make the HIL thrilling. “The first week of the season is going to be critical in deciding the way forward for all the teams. The rule changes only add to the excitement of the league.”

Potent attack

Last year’s semi-finalist Wizards, coached by Roger Van Gent, seems to be ready for the challenge. With experienced Australian Jamie Dwyer, the costliest Indian player Akashdeep Singh (who is among the International Hockey Federation (FIH) nominations for the Young player of the year award), attacking midfielder Agustin Mazilli of Argentina and Indian talents such as Ramandeep Singh, P. R. Aiyappa and Jaskaran Singh at their disposal, the outfit’s attack line poses a potent threat.

Raghunath, Dutch professional Wouter Jolie and Argentine drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat can defend well whereas the solid P. R. Sreejesh can be relied upon under the bar. The accomplished Tobias Hauke and Edward Ockenden can ensure a fluent job in the midfield.

Lancers, coached by Mark Hager, will seek inspiration from charismatic German midfielder Moritz Fuerste. The host have employed some Indian forwards, such as Devinder Walmiki, Lalit Upadhyay, Stanli Minz and Malak Singh, who will perform in the company of experienced Aussie Glenn Turner. Englishman Adam Dixon and Dutchman Quirijin Caspers and Indian duo of S. K. Uthappa and Dharamvir Singh have the ability to switch positions between midfield and forward line.

With Andrew Charter protecting the Lancers goal, young Indians such as Dipsan Tirkey, Pardeep Mor, Amit Rohidas, Gurjinder Singh, Anand Lakra and their foreign colleagues in Matthew Willis, Matthew Dawson and Aran Zalewski will try to form an impregnable wall for Lancers.

The remaining teams will play their first matches through the week at different centres.

Strong midfield

Defending champion Ranchi Rays has again chosen a strong midfield, predominantly consisting of Australian and English players whereas last year’s finalist Jaypee Punjab Warriors has mostly stuck to Aussies in the back line and middle.

DWR, which had finished third in 2015, has foreign players of varied nationalities while Dabang Mumbai has picked up a nicely-balanced squad.

With all the teams looking competitive, the fourth chapter of the HIL should present an interesting fare.