HIL: Ranchi Rays and Kalinga Lancers face-off in eastern derby
Defending champions Ranchi Rays and Kalinga Lancers will be keen to continue their winning runs when they face each other in the eastern derby of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) here on Thursday.
Ranchi Rays defeated Delhi Waveriders on Tuesday at home before beating Uttar Pradesh Wizards in Lucknow. Similarly, Lancers are also coming off impressive win over Dabang Mumbai at home and had a highly successful trip to Lucknow.
And the match at the Birsa Munda Astro Turf Stadium is expected to be one of the most awaited encounters between the teams belonging to neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Odisha who have been traditional hockey bastions.
Ranchi Rays began their journey with a loss against Jaypee Punjab Warriors, but the Harendra Singh-coached side has come back strongly.
Captain Ashley Jackson has shown his consistency year after year and even in this edition he has been the highest goal scorer for the team.
Some of the other key players to watch out for in the squad will be veteran drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Kothajit Singh, Manpreet Singh and Birendra Lakra amongst the Indians, while Barry Middleton, Fergus Kavanagh and goalkeeper Tyler Lovell are the key foreigners.
"It's going to be a good contest. Both the teams like to play attacking hockey. The crowd is playing the biggest role for the home team which is charging up the players to give their best," Ranchi head coach Harendra said in a release.
"We believe the crowd will continue their support as always and the boys will have to control their emotions and play their basic game."
Lancers, coached by Australian Mark Hager, also began their campaign with a loss but have found their form since the opening match loss to Wizards.
Glen Turner has turned around their scoring capabilities this year, scoring a total of 10 goals so far. The 31-year-old Australian has been the driving force in the attack and Ranchi need to check him.
He will be supported by Englishman Adam Dixon, Lalit Upadhyay, Malak Singh and Stanli Minz in the attack.
Captain Moritz Fuerste has led his from the front, fitting into the role of the deep-lying playmaker really well. The double Olympic champion with Germany has been able to feed the ball nicely to midfielders Devindar Walmiki, Aran Zalewski, S.K. Utthappa and Dharamvir Singh.
The visitors will have drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh, Matthew Dawson of Australia, Pradeep Mor and Dipsan Tirkey in the defence line, while Andrew Charter will be the first-choice goalkeeper.
"We are fortunate to have a beautiful mix of players in the team with experienced international players and some very talented Indian players. It's been this mix that has helped us so far and we are confident that it's this mix only which will help us see through for the rest of the league," Furste said.
"It's a big match tomorrow but we want to play our regular game and give the spectators a good game of hockey."