Converting penalty corners will be UP Wizards' strength: V.R. Raghunath


New Delhi, Jan 2 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Wizards captain V.R. Raghunath said Friday his team will rely on penalty corner conversions to go all the way in the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) starting January 22. Being among the top drag-flickers of the world, the Karnataka player led the Wizards twice and took the team to the semifinals of the previous two editions. The Indian defender plans to materialise maximum scoring opportunities through penalty corners.

"The league this time is going to be tough as the best players of the world will take part in it. The strength of our team will be the drag-flicking skills," he said in a statement.

The 26-year-old drag-flick specialist was third in the lists of the top goal scorers of both the previous two editions.

Proving his worth and becoming a motivation to the defence line of Wizards in the first season of the HIL, Raghunath scored a total number of nine goals where all the goals came from penalty corner conversions. He scored four goals to help the team take third position.

Trailing the achievement of the first season, he scored eight goals again from penalty corners in the subsequent edition. However, his team failed to finish on the podium.

In addition to Raghunath, the team also has the service of the Netherlands goal-poacher Jeroen Hertzberger, who didn't play last time citing busy international schedule.

Raghunath said that their defence has been strengthened due to the availability of talented Dutch internationals Marcel Balkestein and Jolie Wouter are also available this time.

"I am excited to share the field with Harbir Singh, the Netherlands' Marcel Balkestein and Jolie Wouter, who are surely a boost to our defence line-up. I look forward to the third season and aiming to improve our position by finishing on a winning note this time."

UP Wizards will play their first match January 23 against defending champions Delhi Waveriders in Lucknow. The opening day of the league will witness Kalinga Lancers taking on Ranchi Rays at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

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