A man of ideas

"Did anyone switch off his TV?'' That was Maurits Hendriks (in pic), the tournament director, referring to the tremendous atmosphere at the stadium during the shoot-out of the first final of the Premier Hockey League.

The atmosphere at the venue was electric, as the spectators enjoyed a tense climax. Sher-e-Jalandhar beat Orissa Steelers 6-5 in the tiebreak that featured 30 attempts. The match itself lasted a record two hours and 50 minutes.

"The players will soon understand how to go about it and the quality of execution would become better. In any case, it is easier to accept defeat this way. We never visualised that it would be so good. We will study this further,'' said Hendriks, elaborating on the eight-second one-on-one attempt by the players against the goalkeepers, starting from the 25-yard line, during the novel tiebreak method.

"It was a revelation for international hockey. The FIH representative was at the venue watching the tremendous atmosphere,'' observed Hendriks, the chief coach of Spain's national team.

Talking about the other novelties in the PHL, he said that the other change, by which a penalty corner can be given for fouls near the half line itself, was not generally being followed by the umpires.

It was also decided to have a giant television screen to help the spectators enjoy the match.

"We have many ideas, but we need to get the feedback of the players and coaches before we finalise them for the next edition,'' said Hendriks.

The earlier idea of reducing the players as the match went into extra-time was done away with in the current edition, as the teams tended to become defensive.

It was the first time in three editions that the League was being played at two venues, spread over a longer period. More cities may get into the picture in future if they have international quality turf and floodlight facilities.

The composition of the teams — the players were distributed to various sides without they being able to identify with the region — has been a matter of concern. "Ideally each team should have a clear identity, but it is not always possible to get 25 players from one city. We will try to strike a balance," Hendriks said.

Defending the four-quarter format, Hendriks said that it helped the star players to be on the turf for the entire match. Quite appropriately, the additional time-outs may be done away with so as to make a match compact. Too many stoppages do not help the game.