Matthew Swann: “HIL games will get closer”

Matthew Swann is of the view that Hockey India League 2016 will see close matches decided by a single goal. "The field goal rule will make it possible for a side trailing by one goal to overturn the result at the last minute, if the forwards manage to convert a field goal," observed the Dabang Mumbai captain, at the Mahindra stadium on Thursday.

The Aussie, experienced and successful in gold-and-green national colours, points out that more Aussies are seen in the league due to similarity in playing styles.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Matthew Swann is of the view that Hockey India League 2016 will see close matches decided by a single goal. “The field goal rule will make it possible for a side trailing by one goal to overturn the result at the last minute, if the forwards manage to convert a field goal,” observed the Dabang Mumbai captain, at the Mahindra stadium on Thursday.

He was replying to a query whether Kalina Lancers 10-1 victory over UP Wizards will become the norm in the competitive league. Australia is known to win matches by huge margins. “UP Wizards is a decent side, it just happened that day. If you go by the first match between them, Kalinga won 8-6, so both teams were involved in high-scoring games.”

The Aussie defender said that with each day, teams in the HIL are gelling together as a unit, leading to the possibility of closer matches. “We started off anxiously against Kalinga Lancers but the performance against Jaypee Punjab Warriors was better than the opener. We hope to make it difficult for rivals to score against us,” he said. DM have lost both their games so far.

Swann’s squad will face one of the stronger teams in HIL, Delhi Waveriders, runner-up in 2013 and 2014 champion, with different set of players. The Aussie, experienced and successful in gold-and-green national colours, points out that more Aussies (players and coaches) are seen in the league due to similarity in approach on the turf. “Australia and India tries to play attacking hockey, he opines.

He is a player to track, among the numerous Indian and international stars in action at the Mahindra stadium, for calibre and experience. DM, coached by Aussie great Jay Stacy, has a captain whose form in 2011 won him the FIH World Player of the Year award. Capped 129 times by Australia, he played for major clubs in Queensland and Bloemendaal in the Dutch league.

One of the best

On defender Birendra Lakra, Swann paid glowing tributes to the Indian. “He is probably one of the finest players in the world in his position. Lakra is a quality defender and can assist the midfield,” said the DM skipper. Lakra is part of defending champion Ranchi Rays and is making a name for consistency and work ethic.

Delhi Waveriders, coached by Cedric D’Souza, won in 2014 with the iconic Sardara Singh directing operations in the midfield. The latter switched to JPW in HIL 2016. New Zealander Simon Childs is leading the visitors this year, Mumbai talents include the opportunistic Yuvraj Walmiki and solid Amit Gowda.