New Delhi: At the recently held Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016, Tom Craig from Australia came up with a significant performance to hold India 2-2 in the Semi Final which resulted in a penalty shootout. India eventually won the game 4-2 but Craig’s performance that night won many a heart. His successful attempt to score a goal with a reverse shot in the 14th minute of the Semi Final had given Australia the lead causing some nervous moments for Indian fans.
Craig’s ability to counter-attack is top notch and hockey lovers will get to see similar such heroics from this lanky Australian forward at the upcoming Coal India Hockey India League scheduled to begin in Mumbai on 21 January. This will be Craig’s first appearance in the Coal India HIL which is largely known as one of the most lucrative tournaments in the world hockey calendar. “I remember watching on TV when the first series of Coal India HIL was played, and absolutely loved it,” says Craig, who made his debut for the Australian men’s team in 2014 for the Test Series against India.
“Most young Australian hockey players have plenty of interest in the Coal India HIL, and I am no exception. It's such an exciting tournament and I cannot wait to be involved. India is a fantastic country and the crowds are brilliant. There's so much to look forward to,” stated the 21-year-old ahead of his arrival in India.
Craig will be part of the Kalinga Lancers which is led by legendary German hockey star Moritz Fuerste. He will also have fellow Australians Glenn Turner, Matthew Dawson, Andrew Charter and Aran Zalewski joining him in the Kalinga Lancers’ camp. The Kalinga Lancers will begin their Coal India HIL campaign against Delhi Waveriders on 22 January at their home ground in Bhubaneswar.
For Craig, playing against his own teammates will be most exciting during the league. He says, “Every team has a wealth of unbelievable talent, but I would have to say I love playing against my Australian teammates the most, so I'm looking forward to that.”
Ahead of a challenging season for his home team Australia, Craig feels his exposure at the Coal India HIL will mean that he goes back with some valuable lessons. “This season hopefully exposes me a bit more to the world's best players, which will be such a valuable learning opportunity. We start the season fairly hard with the international team so a good few months in India playing good hockey will, with any luck, leave me sharper than what I would be without it,” Craig says.
He further added that the Coal India HIL has made a significant contribution to world hockey and has given international players more reason to consider hockey as a viable career option. “That amount of money makes a massive difference to any hockey player, you'd think. Certainly, for me, I appreciate the opportunity that the Coal India HIL brings as far as professionalizing the game, and this money will most likely go straight towards my university fees,” admits Craig who was bought by the Kalinga Lancers for a handsome USD 67,000.