Analysis: Has Punjab Warriors sealed one semis berth already?
The 2015 Hero Hockey India League is well into its second week and matches have been closely fought than ever before. But there is one team – Jaypee Punjab Warriors – who have looked pretty impressive despite their winning run being snapped by Uttar Pradesh Wizards courtesy a 1-2 loss on Wednesday.
The Warriors coached by 62-year-old Australian Barry Dancer, a man who has served the Kookaburras with distinction having being part of the silver-winning national team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He has showed that they pack too much ammunition for the other teams, although one cannot deny the fact that other five teams have shown the inclination, not to throw in the towel at any stage of the game.
It won’t be unfair to suggest that Jaypee Punjab Warriors have already sealed one of the four semifinal slots with 23 points from six games. With due respect to all teams, it is hard to see the Punjab outfit not being in the knockout phase, thus leaving the likes of Delhi Waveriders, Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Kalinga Lancers and Dabang Mumbai to slug it out for the other three semi-final berths.
The Warriors may have appeared near invincible in most games, but it’s not that they were not stretched. Their opening game against Dabang Mumbai was perhaps the match of the tournament, where the Punjab side twice came from behind to settle for a 3-3 draw. The fighting side of the Warriors came to the fore as they trailed 0-1 to Delhi Waveriders till the end of the third quarter, but they hitting back thrice in the final quarter to orchestrate an unbelievable win. The win was a kind of ‘revenge exacting thing’ for them as they were denied glory in the 2014 edition final by the same opponents.
The Warriors have a well balanced side and the fact that skipper Jamie Dwyer is leading from the front has been a big factor in their team’s upswing in fortunes. The celebrated scored an eye-catching equalizer against Dabang Mumbai in their opening game and has scored four goals so far.
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh – the top goal scorer of the 2013 and 2014 editions – has been hungry during short corners firing five goals so far. Chris Cirello is another deadly PC exponent for the Warriors.
The Indian forwards – SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh and Affan Yousuf – have looked handy upfront and overall the Warriors’ forwardline has so much flair to offer. Four wins, one draw and one loss in six games does sum up their consistency and also raise their billing as one of the strong title contenders.