5 positives from Dabang Mumbai's 2016 Hockey India League campaign
Dabang Mumbai narrowly missed out on the semi-finals spot in the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League (HIL), having finished in 5th position behind Kalinga Lancers. Despite having the same points as the 4th placed team, the Alphas' campaign was cut short due to the Lancers having the better goal difference. Despite the early exit, there was plenty to cheer about for the franchise.
Here are 5 positives that Dabang Mumbai can take from HIL 2016:
Florian Fuchs is a gem
German international Florian Fuchs became the most expensive forward in HIL history after the Alphas shelled out US $96,000 for his services. Despite the 2016 edition being his debut campaign, Fuchs took to the tournament like a fish takes to water. He scored 5 field goals to emerge as Dabang Mumbai's top scorer with 5 field goals (10 score points). He lived up to his reputation as a prolific forward by giving a good account of himself in the tournament.
Experienced support staff
The Alphas are coached by Australian Jay Stacy, an experienced international, who has the second most appearances for his national team. The 47-year-old has also scored the third highest number of goals for the Kookaburras. He is ably assisted by 40-year-old South African Greg Nicol and the team is mentored by former Indian national team captain Viren Rasquinha.
The tactics employed by the Alphas this season was a testament to the backroom staff's pedigree. They led a completely revamped squad which was stitched together a few weeks ahead of the tournament. Dabang Mumbai will do well to retain their services for the next season.
David Harte showed his quality
The 2015 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year was at his best for the 4th edition of the world's biggest hockey league. David Harte was a rock at the back for the Alphas and proved his quality time and again. The most expensive goalkeeper in HIL 2016 lived upto his billing and is a contender for the goalkeeper of the tournament award.
Leading by example – Matthew Swann
Although Dabang Mumbai failed to make the semi-finals this tournament, one man who could hold his head up high was captain Matthew Swann. An industrious defender, it seemed like there were 2-3 clones of him on the field as he was everywhere. He led by example and rallied his troops for every match.
The Alphas could count themselves unlucky as they failed to make the semi-finals of the tournament despite being level on points with 4th placed Kalinga Lancers. Matthew Swann will be hoping to lead the team to the knockouts in the next edition.
One thing that would please the Alphas' thinktank the most would be the performance of their youngsters. Harmanpreet Singh, Manpreet, Gurjant Singh, Affan Yousuf, Jeremy Hayward, Dylan Wotherspoon and Johan Björkman all gave a good account of themselves on the grand stage despite just making their baby steps in the hockey world.
Young goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak did well whenever he was called upon and he will be a better player next season due to the invaluable experience gained alongside David Harte and Xavi Trenchs.