Hockey India League to start with Kalinga Lancers hosting Ranchi Rays
Bhubaneswar, Jan 21 (IANS)
The third edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) is all set to begin at the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday when home team Kalinga Lancers take on debutants Ranchi Rays.
It will be interesting to see which team bags the first points to take an early lead in the league standings in the month long tournament which will eventually culminate at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi 22nd February.
Young Indian hockey talents are eager to perform in the event alongside top internationals like "Player of the Year" Mark Knowles or "Goalkeeper of the Year" Jaap Stockmann and learn from them.
Rays confident in their debut season
The Rays are focussed on winning matches and making an immediate impact by reaching the knockouts in their debut season. On the other hand, the Lancers, who finished bottom of the table in their debut season, look a much improved team this year.
Then, led by experienced India skipper Sardar Singh, defending champions Delhi Waveriders will start their campaign against the Uttar Pradesh Wizards 23rd January in Lucknow.
Boasting of celebrated players like Simon Child, Matt Gohdes, Pirmin Blaak along with top Indians such as Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurbaj Singh and Danish Mujtaba, the Delhi-based team is once again the top contender for the title and is aiming to win back-to-back championships.
On the other hand, the V.R. Raghunath-led Wizards will step on their home turf with the single-minded objective of starting the league on a winning note. The two-time semi-finalists now hope to break their jinx and make it to the summit clash.
Debutants Dabang Mumbai hungry for success
Last year's finalists Jaypee Punjab Warriors will commence their battle against another new team -- Dabang Mumbai -- in their first match 23rd January at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai.
The Jamie Dwyer-led Warriors plan to go one better and finish last year's unfinished job. With top players such as Stockman, Knowles, Sandeep Singh and S.V. Sunil in their ranks, the Warriors are among the favourites.
Though Mumbai may not have many big names, they have a good side with talented and spirited players who have trained hard under a new management. Considered the dark horses of the competition, the newly assembled team is ready to take everyone by surprise.
"After the first two successful seasons, the best players from the world over are all geared up this time too as we hope for a much more competitive and exciting league ahead," HIL chairman Narinder Batra said Wednesday.
"With new teams and fresh players joining us in this edition, I am sure this league will be a huge accomplishment and fruitfully serve the purpose of escalating the game of hockey to a new pinnacle."