New Delhi: Ranchi Rays have always been the team to beat in the Coal India Hockey India League. The sheer tenacity of the side has invariably come to the fore in the earlier editions where they have won the title twice (2013 and 2015), finished third (2014) and placed fourth last year.
Much of their determination to stay in contention for the title each year comes from their Owner MS Dhoni, the Indian cricket team’s most decorated captain who recently announced to step down from his captaincy from One Day Internationals and T-20. “It is very inspiring for us to play for a team owned by one of India’s most successful cricket captains MS Dhoni. The single most important motto of our team is to stay cool and calm just like MS Dhoni even during pressure situations and that has always worked for our team,” says senior Indian men’s team midfielder Manpreet Singh who plays for Ranchi Rays.
Though MS Dhoni has stepped down from captaincy, his aura of leading the team from the front continues to inspire Ranchi Rays captain Ashley Jackson from England, says Manpreet. “Ashley follows cricket very closely and many a times, he brings to the table what MS Dhoni would do with his cricket team. Ashley apart from keeping the team together as one unit, he always tells us that we need to have the winning spirit Dhoni has and never to let our spirit down even if we have conceded early goals,” Manpreet says.
It also helps the team when Dhoni sends his wishes to Ranchi Rays via team coach Harendra Singh. “Last time coach conveyed Dhoni’s message to us where he not only wished us the best but reminded us that it’s not always about winning but to make sure we give our 100 per cent and only then results will follow. He also said that we will always have his support and that’s very encouraging,” Manpreet added.
On days when Ranchi Rays is not playing hockey, they like to indulge in a game of cricket as this helps the team bond better and helps in relaxing their mind. “We do a lot of fun activities when we are not playing hockey. Sometimes, during our camp, we end up playing cricket, try and imitate Dhoni’s famous helicopter shot and whoever comes close to it gets a loud cheer from the entire team,” says a candid Manpreet who is looking forward to joining the team’s camp starting in Mumbai on 15 January.
Ranchi Rays play their first match on the inaugural day of Coal India HIL on 21 January against Dabang Mumbai at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai. The team comprises a formidable line-up including Christopher Ruhr of Germany, Barry Middleton of England, Fergus Kavanagh, Tyler Lovell and Timothy Deavin of Australia apart from Indian men’s team players Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Akash Chikte, Md Amir Khan and Junior World Cup winning team’s Vikramjit Singh and Simranjeet Singh. “The aim this time will be to bring back the trophy for our supporters back in Ranchi. And personally, for me, I am keen on playing against my idols Moritz Furste and Mark Knowles. There’s always added excitement when I play against them and there’s so much that I’ve learnt from their game in these past four years,” admits Manpreet who recently got appointed as Deputy Superintendent of Police in Punjab.