The Hockey India League is arguably the best thing that has happened to Indian hockey. HIL provides a platform for domestic players to showcase their talent at a higher level and also gives players an opportunity to revive their career in order to make a comeback to the international arena.
Due to this league, Indian players are now able to understand where they stand in terms of skill and physical fitness to their European counterparts. India’s junior hockey team coach Harendra Singh has also praised the HIL for its contribution in shaping the young Indian players.
Since its first edition, The Hockey India League has produced a number of proficient players. India’s Junior team ace drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh said the league prepared him for the World Cup in several aspects and drag flick being one of them. In modern hockey, drag flick is an important skill which can change the course of a match at ay moment. Drag flickers are worth their weight in gold in this age of hockey.
The fifth season of the Hockey India League is set to start in a couple of days and for every team, the drag flickers are going to play a pivotal role in the tournament. Let us take a look at the top five drag flickers who are favourites to make an impact in the HIL 2017.
#5 Harmanpreet Singh
Harmanpreet Singh came into the limelight after a staggering performance in the third edition of the Hockey India League. He scored five goals from penalty corners in the competition and won the ‘Upcoming Player of the Tournament’ award.
Before the HIL 2015, the promising youngster from the Surjit Singh Hockey Academy impressed everyone with his drag-flicking abilities in the 2014 Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia and scored nine goals in the competition, all from penalty corners.
He often deceives the goalkeeper with the use of a supple wrist action that changes the trajectory of the shots at the last moment. In recent years, he has matured as a player who can provide crucial breakthroughs in tough situations. The in-form Harmanpreet could help the Mumbai side in their quest for the first HIL title.
#4 VR Raghunath
VR Raghunath is considered one of the most aggressive members of the current Indian side and has been an integral part of the team since the 2007 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Raghunath made his debut in 2005 but he took some time to settle in the team as a regular player due to his limitations in skill and the presence of senior players like Sandeep Singh in the heart of Indian defence.
He has since improved his range of skills after his debut in 2005 against Pakistan, and practiced hard to further his drag-flicking as well his dribbling skills. He is now considered a complete player on the field with his tactical defending skills, dribbling skills and with his ability to trigger the forwards in the 25-yard circle with his powerful slapshots.
Raghunath took his team to a third-place finish in the inaugural edition of the Hockey India League and he will play a key role for the UP Wizards in the upcoming edition with his experience.
#3 Chris Ciriello
Fondly called the ‘Big Dog’ or ‘Italian Stallion’ by his team-mates, Ciriello can give nightmares to the most prominent goalkeepers in the world. He has the perfect combination of skills and power in his drag flicks which can beat any top-class goalkeeper of the world.
Australia has produced many world-class hockey players in recent times but the finishing ability of Ciriello sets him apart from the rest of his teammates. In the 2014 FIH Hockey World Cup final, he completely dismantled the Holland goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann with his low drag flicks which showed his tremendous ability as a drag flicker.
He won the Hockey India League last year with the Jaypee Punjab Warriors and his prior familiarity with these conditions from his experience in the HIL would be a big reason of worry for the other teams in the HIL 2017.
#2 Rupinder Pal Singh
Rupinder Pal Singh has grown in stature since he was given a consistent run by the selectors. He made his debut for India in the 2010 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup but his moment of glory came in the next year’s Azlan Shah Cup when he scored his first international hat-trick against the Great Britain and won the top-scorer award.
He was picked by the Delhi Waveriders in HIL 2013 and since then has been an integral part of the team. The Hockey India League gave him an opportunity to hone his skills and he grasped that chance with both hands and cemented his place in the Indian side after a series of outstanding performances in the domestic and international hockey tournaments.
He played a vital role at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and in the following Asian Champions Trophy, where India won the gold medal in a grand fashion. He was India’s highest goal scorer last year and his current form makes him one of the most impactful drag-flickers in the upcoming edition of Hockey India League.
#1 Gonzalo Peillat
Gonzalo Peillat has been the key man for Argentina in recent times. He is the major reason for Argentina’s rise in international hockey in last few years. Peillat showed his true abilities in the 2014 World Cup, where he finished as the top scorer of the tournament with 10 goals from a total of 14 shots, all of them perfectly struck drag flick penalty corners. He is the new face of the Argentina men’s hockey team.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Peillat outclassed every goalkeeper in the tournament with his excessive power and ability to change the trajectory of the hits at the last moment. Argentina won their maiden gold medal in the Rio Olympics courtesy of the remarkable performance by their key man, Peillat.
He scored a sensational hat-trick against the defending champions, Germany in the semi-final and a goal in the final at the Rio.The master of penalty corners, Peillat finished as the top scorer of the tournament with 11 goals.
The Argentine played in the last season of the HIL for UP Wizards and with his experience and high-quality skills, he could break the jinx to take his team into the final for the first time in the history of the Hockey India League.