No Pakistan players in HIL

Narinder Batra said he would love to have players from Pakistan in the franchise-based league but not with the kind of conduct they displayed in Bhubaneswar last year.

Muhammad Tousiq (centre) of Pakistan takes off his shirt and gestures towards the crowd as his teammates celebrate their victory over India in the Champions Trophy semi-final match in Bhubaneswar.   -  AP

The Hockey India president and chairman of the HIL, Narinder Batra, has refused to allow Pakistan players play in the League until they apologised for their "unacceptable behaviour" during last year's Champions Trophy.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Hockey India president Narinder Batra, on September 14, ruled out Pakistani players’ participation in future editions of the Hockey India League (HIL). They will not be considered until they apologise for their “unacceptable behaviour” during last year’s Champions Trophy, he said.

Still awaiting an apology from Pakistan over its players’ behaviour in the Champions Trophy, Batra, who is also the chairman of HIL, said he would love to have players from the neighbouring country in the franchise-based league but not with the kind of conduct they displayed in Bhubaneswar last year.

“I would love to have Pakistan players, but not with the kind of behaviour they displayed in the Champions Trophy,” Batra said.

“And they have shown no regret about that incident in writing or otherwise. I don’t want to politicise the issue but that kind of behaviour was unacceptable. Least we need is an apology from them,” he added.

Two players were handed a one-game ban and reprimanded by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) after the Pakistan team went on a rampage post their semi-final win against India in Bhubaneswar in December last year. Showing obscene gestures to the crowd, some players also took off their shirts in celebration. Batra insisted that India have received no act of regret from Pakistan for the unfortunate incident.

Nine Pakistani players were part of the first edition of the HIL in 2013, but were forced to leave the country before the start of the tournament following protests from a few political organisations. Since then no Pakistan player has been included in the last three editions of the tournament so far.

India though have benefited from the mega-event with quite a few international players rubbing shoulders with the national youngsters. And Batra is boastful of the HIL having a positive impact on Indian hockey.

“Our aim at the HIL is to form a pool of players for the future. We already have eight players from HIL in the national side. The HIL has created heroes and a space for itself in the big world of cricket.

“We have won the Asian Games gold after 16 years and were able to get the better of Pakistan in an Asian Games final after 48 years since 1966. So, the national sport has certainly improved in the last four or five years and the HIL is one of the reasons behind it,” said Batra.