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Match Preview: Delhi Wave Riders vs Punjab Warriors

Delhi Wave Riders will be banking on the leadership of captain Sardar Singh to guide them past Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the opening match of the inaugural HIL.

Venue : Major Dhyan Singh Stadium, New Delhi (Capacity – 16,200)

Broadcaster: Star Sports (Hindi Commentary), Star Cricket (English Commentary)

Date: 14 January 2013

Time : 7:30 PM (IST)

Finally, after the huge build-up, marathon auctions and short practice sessions, the inaugural Hockey India League will commence on Monday, 14th January, at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi. The hype behind this star studded league has been immense and a lot of planning has happened behind the curtains to make this a pivotal event in Indian hockey.

With World Series Hockey, the IHF run tournament enjoying great success last year, the expectations from this ‘official’ league are huge. Indian hockey experienced the high of Olympics qualification and WSH before plummeting to the depths after finishing with the wooden spoon in London last year. Since then, there have been some commendable performances from a new look national team, and though the sport hasn’t been given a pat on the back for showing some fight, it has quietly gathered strength after the knockout punch of 2012 Olympics.

The Hockey India League, therefore, will be a litmus test for the sport in India. The fan-following of the sport took a beating last summer in London and if HIL can bring the game back to prime time television and gets people talking about SV Sunil, VR Raghunath and Nithin Thimmaiah along with Teun de Nooijer and Jamie Dwyer, there can be no better outcome for the league, irrespective of the eventual winner.

Overview:

The first game of the Inaugural Hockey India League will see Delhi Wave Riders taking on Jaypee Punjab Warriors. There is no yardstick or benchmark to suggest who will come out on top as the players are just getting to know each other at the moment and it will all boil down to which team gets the chemistry right and plays better on the day. Both the teams have been judged the favourites so far to win the tournament; it bodes well for a thrilling opening game of the inaugural HIL. One thing that might work in Delhi’s favour is the crowd support in the capital city whereas the Punjab team will be banking on their strong Australian contingent. Unlike in IPL, there is no restriction on the number of foreign players which a team can field. The Hockey India League will be a round-robin event and each team will face the other home and away. The top four will make it to the semi-finals.

Players to watch out for:

Delhi – Sardara Singh (Captain) – The ace Indian midfielder, who was the most expensive Indian signing during the auctions, will be leading the Wave Riders and the team will be banking on him to orchestrate the play in the middle. The Indian was recently nominated for the FIH player of the year award and is known for his vision and pin-point passing. German shot-stopper Nicolas Jacobi is also one of the best between the sticks and the combination of Yuvraj Walmiki, Simon Child (NZ) and Norris-Jones (RSA) should provide a threat to any defence in the league.

Jaypee Punjab Warriors will be looking to draw inspiration from their captain Jamie Dwyer, one of the best forwards in World Hockey

Punjab – Jamie Dwyer – The Australian is widely regarded as one of the best forwards in World Hockey at the moment and has won a lot of awards with the Australian national team, winning the recently concluded Champions Trophy as well. He is renowned for his slick stick-work and deadly finishing in front of the goal. The Punjab Warriors also boast the likes of Jaap Stockman (Netherland), who is widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment. With the presence of Ignace Tirkey, Mark Knowles and Kashif Shah, Jaypee Punjab Warriors will have a world-class backline to bank on.

Injuries:

Delhi: They have been dealt an early blow after Dutch ace Taeke Taekema was ruled out of the edition after recently underwent an operation on his back. The defender is regarded one of the best drag-flickers in the world and Delhi will be surely missing his services.

Punjab: The players have been practising for over a week in Jalandhar and although they do not have any present injury concerns, Dwyer did reveal that the heavy travel during the tournament could take its toll on the players.

Coaches:

Delhi: Ajay Kumar Bansal

Punjab: Barry Dancer (Australia)

Score Prediction: It will be a close match, but Punjab should squeeze out a win, so I’ll go with 3-2 scoreline in favour of the Warriors.

Did You Know: AK Bansal is the only Indian Coach in the Hockey India League, with all other franchises opting for foreign coaches.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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