Ranchi Rays revolves around ‘pivot’ Ashley Jackson
Captain charismatic – Ashley Jackson
There is something about the Ranchi franchise in the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) that endears you. Whether it was the erstwhile Ranchi Rhinos owned by Patel-PS Group and Uniexcel Group or the current Ranchi Rays owned by Indian World Cup cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sahara Adventure Sports Limited.The only franchise from the eastern city of the country has invariably made fans sit up and take notice of them.
The crowd support for the Ranchi franchise has gone a step ahead of others. And there is man by the name of Ashley Jackson, who has barely put a foot wrong in the 2015 Hero Hockey India League.
We all know that Jackson is a class act and it doesn’t need overemphasizing that. The English playmaker is one of those rare talents, who can man the midfield admirably, double up as a forward and is also an expert drag-flicker – a trait normally associated with fullbacks. The amount of value Jackson lends to any side be it at the club or international level is immense.
Ranchi Rays were so well served by German Moritz Fuertse in the first two editions of the HIL so much so that all the good work of Jackson was getting overshadowed. The 2015 edition saw Fuertse give the HIL a miss due to pressing commitments and Jackson was handed the captain’s armband. The Englandman seems to have relished the opportunity of leading from the front in the 2015 HIL edition, literally making his presence felt in each of the nine games Ranchi Rays have featured in so far.
Can he lead them to their second title?
Jackson has impressed with solid passing play besides rushing back to rescue the defence when in distress and exuding fair amount of consistency in scoring from short corners. His hat-trick in Rays’ 4-0 win over Kalinga Lancers in Ranchi was just superb and his consistent striking prowess means he is the tournament’s top goal-scorer alongside Sandeep Singh – both scoring eight goals each.
Jackson’s biggest challenge is to shepherd his side in the final of the 2015 edition and help them take a shot at glory for the second time. We all know Ranchi Rays have enough ammunition to do it, and in Jackson, they have someone who can deliver the killer punch in crunch situations.
Nothing will be a bigger joy for Jackson, but to see his side embrace glory like Fuertse attained as skipper in the 2013 edition. The sight of Jackson in full cry is what the team management of Ranchi Rays would hope for as the league approaches the knockout phase.