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Are Hockey India League franchises steering clear of spending big on few players?

Suhrid Barua
713   //    13 Aug 2015, 17:36 IST
Hockey India League
A still from the Hockey India League match between Delhi Waveriders and UP Wizards

The 2016 Hero Hockey India League (HIL) may be still some months away, but hockey franchises have hit the ground running racking their brains on what could be the ideal combination. A slew of franchises have announced the players they have retained for the next two years, which gives us enough reasons to believe that they are looking to ‘work smart and not spend ‘big’.

Perhaps, reigning champions Ranchi Rays is an exception as they have retained the influential trio of Ashley Jackson, Barry Middleton and Fergus Kavanagh besides Indian guys like Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh and Manpreet Singh. But, they did let go key players like Mandeep Singh – the poster boy of 2013 HIL as well as the experienced South African duo of Justin Reid-Ross and Austin Smith.

2014 debutants Kalinga Lancers retained only five of the available six quotas – focusing on ‘smart spending’ and steering clear of ‘celebrity buying’ letting go Argentina drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat, New Zealand’s vastly experienced Ryan Archibald as well as seasoned Aussie Russell Ford and Argentine Lucas Villa. The Lancers opted for three Indians – Lalit Upadhyay, Gurjinder Singh and Devinder Walmiki besides two Aussies – Aran Zalewski and Andrew Charter.

Jaypee Punjab Warriors is also looking to forge a potent unit and not bank just on big names to do the job for them. Legendary Aussie forward Jamie Dwyer, Dutchman Jaap Stockmaan – touted as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, drag-flicker Sandeep Singh and Kieren Govers were overlooked as the Warriors retained SV Sunil, Chris Ciriello, Jacob Whetton, Mark Knowles, Satbir Singh and Varun Kumar.

2014 champions Delhi Waveriders sprang the biggest surprise – letting go Indian skipper Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, New Zealand drag-flicker Andy Hayward and South African Lloyd Norris Jones. The Delhi outfit retained Indian forward Yuvraj Walmiki, Surender Kumar and Talwinder Singh besides the New Zealand duo of Simon Child and Steven Edwards besides Aussie Tristian White.

Are the franchises being thrifty in the market?

So have the franchises realized that spending big on a slew of star players may not be a good idea?

“I can’t speak for other franchises, but as far as Delhi Waveriders is concerned we wrote to all our players asking them to reply them with their expectations. Based on the players, who replied back, we retained Yuvraj, Surender, Talwinder, Simon, Steven and Tristian for the next two seasons,” says Delhi Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza.

The former national men’s team coach believes every franchise will be keeping their options open before the upcoming auction.

“Letting go a player means he is thrown into the auction pool and every franchise, including the one who had let him go has the opportunity to buy that player. It all depends on various permutations and combinations. Letting go a player does not meant the same franchise does not want to again buy his services,” Cedric explains.

Clearly, the first three editions of the Hero Hockey India League have enabled the franchises to put their thinking caps on and the trend of the recent ‘retained’ players is that franchises do not want to shell out a bomb to have one or two big guns, rather focus on having a more cohesive unit.

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Suhrid Barua
I am a passionate sports journalist/blogger who is madly in love with cricket,football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, badminton, like to follow all sports
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