Hockey India League Auctions: Punjab Warriors will be the team to beat!
The inaugural Hockey India League auctions may not have generated as much buzz as was the case during the inaugural IPL in 2008. But even the staunchest critics of the HIL cannot deny the fact that the auctions – the first of its kind ever in the history of Indian hockey – have indeed grabbed eyeballs, thus injecting a ray of hope for the future of the sport in the country.
The auctions have ensured that all the franchise teams would stay competitive in the much-talked-about league starting January 17.
A quick glance at the auction list gives a fair picture of the depth of talent the Punjab Warriors has at its disposal.
The Warriors snapped up legendary Australian striker Jamie Dwyer – one of the six marquee players – for $60,000 (Rs 32.66 lakh).
A veteran of 286 internationals, Dwyer would have experienced Indian strikers SV Sunil, Shivendra Singh and Dharamvir Singh for company upfront along with Spanish forward Roger Padros and fellow Aussie Kieran Govers, who is also adept at firing home lethal drag-flicks penalty corners – something unusual for a player who plays either as a striker or as an attacking midfielder.
The Punjab outfit boasts of a robust midfield with the likes of Australians Simon Orchard and Rob Hammond, Argentinean Lucas Rey and Indian youngster Gurmail Singh in its ranks.
The side has a wealth of experience in defence with veteran Indian Ignace Tirkey and Aussie Mark Knowles (200 international caps), who would be ready to give rival forwards a tough time.
The purchase of Tirkey by the Punjab franchise for $31,000 (starting with a base price of $13,900) was on unexpected lines given the fact that he was axed from the national team after the disastrous London Olympics campaign. The side also features Australian drag-flicker Christopher Ciriello.
The Warriors have Jaap Stockmann – one of the world’s best goalkeepers – who would surely be a tough nut to crack. India’s London Olympics captain Bharat Chetri, who had an embarrassing time when he went unsold during the initial auctions and was bought by Punjab during the re-auctions, is most likely to be the second choice goalkeeper of the side if current form is anything to go by.
Besides Stockmann and Chetri, the side also features junior goalie Keshab Dutt.
The composition of the Punjab Warriors side definitely makes them one of the strong contenders for the inaugural HIL crown. Of course, there is another team, Delhi Wave Riders who appear to have the team to seriously challenge any team on any given day.
The Delhi franchise made the right noises by lapping up Indian captain Sardar Singh for $78,000. Sardar would be working closely with fellow Indian Gurbaj Singh, Spain’s Andres Mir and Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan Junior in the midfield department.
The side also has a decent defence with German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi and Dutch national team reserve goal-tender Pirmin Blaak manning their citadel.
The Riders have two skillful drag-flickers – Dutch old warhorse Taeke Taekema and rapidly improving Indian Rupinder Pal Singh – who sprang a surprise when he was bought for $56,000 after starting with a base price of $9,250
If there is one area where the DWR can match the Punjab Warriors, it has to be their forwardline. Indian strikers Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Danish Mujtaba and sprightly Yuvraj Walmiki would look to form a lethal strike force with the likes of Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan Senior, German Oscar Deecke, New Zealand’s Simon Child and South Africa’s Lloyd Norris-Jones.
Like the Punjab Warriors and Delhi Wave Riders, Uttar Pradesh Wizards side has a well round solidity. The UP franchise bought the most capped international from Netherlands, Teun De Nooijer, for $66,000 as a marquee player. Nooijer would team up with fellow countryman Jeroen Hertzberger besides the three Indian strikers -Tushar Khandker, SK Uthappa and Nithin Thimmaiah.
The Sahara-owned franchise has a robust midfield in highly experienced Australian Eddie Ockenden, Netherlands’ Sander Baart and Spain’s David Alegre.
The Wizards has a formidable defence with the likes of Indian vice captain VR Raghunath and Australian Luke Doerner, who only recently retired from international hockey. Netherlands’ Marcel Balkestein is the third key man in the UPW’s defence.
Both Raghunath and Doerner are also handy with their drag-flicks, which should serve the side well.
Mumbai Magicians bought Indian marquee player Sandeep Singh for a base price of $27,800, which indicates that a player’s pricing has a lot to do with his current performance than on past laurels.
But the Indian drag-flicker would be assured of a better pay package after Australian defender Joel Caroll, was bought by the Mumbai franchise for $56,000 and as a marquee player, Sandeep will be getting 15% more than the Australian.
The Mumbai outfit seems to have focused more on tightening its defence. The team bought two current Indian goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and PT Rao along with Pakistan’s Imran Butt.
Besides Sandeep and Caroll, their backline features Spanish fullback Sergi Enrique and Australian Mathew Swann.
The Magicians has as many as three Pakistan midfielders – Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed and Mohammad Tousiq and Australian Matthew Butturini.
The forwardline of the Magicians seems to be bereft of quality. Save for Australian Glenn Turner and Indians Sarvanjit Singh and Chinglensana Singh, the team lacks experience, which could well pan out to be their weakling.
It’s pretty clear that a lot will depend on how Glenn Turner performs; he would be expected to shoulder massive responsibility upfront.
Ranchi Rhinos snapped up marquee player and German national team captain Moritz Fuertse for $75,500. The Rhinos appears to have a strong midfield department comprising Fuertse, South Africa’s Austin Smith, England’s Ashley Jackson and three nippy Indians – Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh.
The RR has experienced Dutch forward Floris Evers, Pakistan’s Shafqat Rasool and New Zealand’s Nick Wilson and all the three foreign players would be expected to share a huge chunk of the goal scoring responsibilities.
The defence is short on experience and the team’s fortunes will hinge a lot on the experience of Australia’s Fergus Kavanagh, Pakistan’s Mohammad Irfan and South African Justin Reid Ross, who also does a decent job with his drag-flicks – a defence which will be manned by talented Indian junior goalkeeper Sushant Tirkey.
Every franchise has big names who can turn the match on their head and it is that quality which should make the Hockey India League a cracker of a contest.
We all know what Sardar Singh, Jamie Dwyer, Teun De Nooijer and Moritz Fuertse can do with a hockey stick! It could either be a match-clinching goal or a killer pass or even an out of the ordinary save in defence.