New Delhi, 20th January 2017: Having gained the reputation of being the best professional league in the world since its launch in 2013, the fifth edition of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) is set to enthrall hockey buffs once again as it gets underway at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai on 21 January.
The tone of the league will be set with a strong opening match between Ranchi Rays, the most decorated team in the Coal India HIL having won the league twice, and Dabang Mumbai who would want to ensure a winning start in front of their home crowd.
Perfectly packed into a mélange of top level hockey and entertainment, the league this year will ensure nail-biting action and unpredictable results. With the world’s finest players, and as many as eight Rio Olympic medalists facing-off against each other, the spectators can be assured of the excitement and quality of play.
New foreign inclusions in the league such as Germany’s Christopher Ruhr, Dutch skipper Robert van der Horst, Dutch midfielders Robbert Kemperman and Billy Bakker, defender Sander de Wijn, Australian forward Tom Craig, Belgium defenders Emmanuel Stockbroekx and Arthur Van Doren, forward Florent van Aubel, goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch will only add to the flavor of the month-long tournament.
Fresh from their exploits at the recently concluded Junior World Cup, the members of the Indian junior men’s team will make sure their respective teams benefit from their champion form while the other Indian and foreign players would want to gain as much exposure the league offers over the weeks and get a good start to an important calendar year with the World League Semi Final and Final slated to be held in 2017.
At this year’s league, you can expect jaw-dropping saves from PR Sreejesh of Uttar Pradesh Wizards, venomous dragflicks by Argentina’s Gonzalo Peillat, tactical dribbling by Ranchi Rays' Ashley Jackson and inspiring defence from Harmanpreet Singh of Dabang Mumbai.
With all teams perfectly poised with a mix of young and experienced players, there can be no one favourite, is the consensus of the players. “It’s hard to predict one favourite in the league simply because all teams are on par with each other and it all boils down to who plays the best hockey in the last three weeks of the league,” expressed German legend Moritz Fuerste, Captain of the Kalinga Lancers.
A LOOK AT THE TEAMS:
Jaypee Punjab Warriors
The Chandigarh-based franchise emerged as champions last year by beating Kalinga Lancers 6-1 in the final. It was young gun Armaan Qureshi who rose to the occasion by scoring maximum goals for his team in the tournament with a strong eight goals to his credit. With the team recruiting the Netherlands skipper Robert van der Horst, who is making his first appearance in the Coal India HIL, the Jaypee Punjab Warriors is only more formidable this year with the likes of legends Mark Knowles, Sardar Singh, SV Sunil, Jacob Whetton among others in their lineup. “We will definitely be aiming to retain the title this year and win it in front of our home crowd in Chandigarh. Our team the same from last year with minor changes and we know each other’s game well so that should be an advantage,” asserted team Captain Sardar Singh.
The line-up: Forwards: Ajit Kumar Pandey, Armaan Qureshi, Jacob Whetton (Australia), Jasjit Singh Kular, Mark Gleghorne (England), Nithin Thimmaiah, Satbir Singh, SV Sunil Midfielders: Baljit Singh Boparai, Matt Gohdes (Australia), Robert van der Horst (Netherlands), Sardar Singh, Simon Orchard (Australia) Defenders: Mink van der Weerden (Netherlands), Harbir Singh Sandhu, Hardik Singh, Mark Knowles (Australia), Varun Kumar Goalkeepers: Jugraj Singh, Tristan Clemons (Australia)
Having come close to winning the title last year, Kalinga Lancers led by the formidable Moritz Fuerste will be eyeing the title this year. Glenn Turner was remarkable last year as he ended on a high with 16 goals becoming the highest goal scorer of the 2016 edition. This year too Kalinga Lancers will be banking on his exploits while the line-up also features dangerous Aussie forwards Tom Craig and Billy Bakker in the mix. “We are optimistic about our chances this year. We had a good Semi Final last year but it wasn’t our best day on the Final. So, this year, the focus will be to carry on a good momentum especially towards the end of the league,” stated team Captain Fuerste.
Forwards: Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Malak Singh, SK Uthappa, Dharamvir Singh, Glenn Turner (Australia) Midfielders: Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Billy Bakker (Netherlands), Tom Craig (Australia), Adam Dixon (England), Devinder Walmiki, Moritz Fuerste (Germany) Defenders: Pardeep Mor, Matthew Dawson (Australia), Anand Lakra, Gurjinder Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Aran Zalewski (Australia), Amit Rohidas Goalkeepers: Abhinav Kumar Pandey, Andrew Charter (Australia)
Having won the title twice, this team from Ranchi will want to stamp their supremacy with a third title and on a given day, they can be a dangerous unit. Having topped the pool last year they would want to continue the fine run and with the likes of Christopher Ruhr joining their camp, they are much stronger than ever. They also have in-form players in Manpreet Singh, Barry Middleton, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh and Simranjeet Singh who can pull off magic on the field. “We have a great bunch and some of the players have had a great 2016. We would definitely be looking at playing some incredible hockey this year and want to ensure our fans back in Ranchi get to see the best hockey,” stated team Captain Ashley Jackson.
Forwards: Christopher Ruhr (Germany), Sarvanjit Singh, Sumit Kumar, Mohammad Amir Khan, Imran Khan Midfielders: Flynn Ogilvie (Australia), Sumit, Simranjeet Singh, Barry Middleton (England), Trent Mitton (Australia), Ashley Jackson (England), Gurbaj Singh, Kothajit Singh, Manpreet Singh Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Timothy Deavin (Australia), Vikramjit Singh, Fergus Kavanagh (Australia) Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, Tyler Lovell (Australia)
Uttar Pradesh Wizards
With the maximum number of Semi Final outings in the Coal India HIL so far, the UP Wizards will want to make the Final this season. With a strong presence of experienced players in VR Raghunath, PR Sreejesh and Olympic gold medalists Gonzalo Peillat and Agustin Mazzilli, the team boasts if a good mix of young and experienced. The only change in the team is Belgium defender Arthur Van Doren brought in for an injured Jamie Dwyer. “We have been working in the camp for almost 10 days now and are vying to get a great start. This year we want to make it to the Final and that is a realistic goal we have set for our team,” said an optimistic VR Raghunath, the skipper.
Forwards: Ajay Yadav, PR Aiyappa, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh
Midfielders: Seve Van Ass (Netherlands), Shamsher Singh, Ajitesh Roy, Agustin Mazzilli (Argentina), Vikas Pillay, Chinglenasana Singh, Sander Baart (Netherlands), Eddie Ockenden (Australia)
Defenders: Arthur van Doren (Belgium), Florent van Aubel (Belgium) Gonzalo Peillat (Argentina), Gurinder Singh, VR Raghunath, Jolie Wouter (Netherlands)
Goalkeepers: Suraj Karkera, PR Sreejesh
New skipper Rupinder Pal Singh will want his team to shine this season and will hope to ride on the incredible form and confidence Harjeet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Parvinder Singh and Santa Singh are enjoying from their Junior World Cup Triumph. The Delhi-based franchise finished third last season after losing to Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the Semi Final. However, Rupinder had shown some fine form with 12 goals in total during the 2016 Coal India HIL making him the third highest goal scorer. “The team is upbeat and are looking for a challenging season. That we have a great mix of juniors in the team along with experience is a big plus for us. We can’t predict who will be a challenging team to beat this year because all teams can come up with great performance. It all comes down to which team has the best outing in the weekend of the tournament in Chandigarh,” said Rupinder Pal Singh, team Captain.
Forwards: Iain Lewers (England), Mandeep Antil, Talwinder Singh, Parvinder Singh, Prabhdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Pardeep Singh, Simon Child (New Zealand) Midfielders: Benjamin Stanzl (Austria), Santa Singh, Surender Kumar, Harjeet Singh Defenders: Manuel Brunet (Argentina), Tristan White (Australia), Vickram Kanth, Rupinder Pal Singh, Justin Reid-Ross (South Africa), Austin Smith (South Africa) Goalkeepers: Vincent Vanasch (Belgium), Vikas Dahiya
Led by German forward Florian Fuchs who has gained the reputation of being an inspiring leader in the Dabang Mumbai Camp already, the team will be looking for a win in their opening match on Saturday against Ranchi Rays. With key players like Harmanpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Sander de Wijn in the line-up, they will aim at a better show this year. The team missed qualifying for the semi-finals by a small margin in the previos season as it all boiled down to one final pool game enocunter which they failed to win. A fifth-place finish on the points table did not do justice to their run in the tournament with two great record-breaking matches they played. They first beat the Ranchi Rays 7-5 and then overcame the Delhi Waveriders 8-3 to amass the second biggest score difference last season. “We came back into the tournament with a big win against Ranchi with just 10-member team. It was a big motivator for the team and we know we are capable of good show on a given day. We want to make use of the energy the U21 boys bring to the table this year and I am looking forward to a great tournament,” stated Florian Fuchs.
The line-up: Forwards: Robbert Kemperman (Netherlands), Johan Bjorkman (Sweden), Florian Fuchs (Germany), Gurjant Singh, Roshan Minz, Affan Yousuf, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Danish Mujtaba, Kieran Govers (Australia) Midfielders: Manpreet, Tyron Pereira, Vikas Sharma, Nilakanta Sharma Defenders: Emmanuel Stockbroekx (Belgium), Sander de Wijn (Netherlands), Jeremy Hayward (Australia), Harmanpreet Singh, Gurmail Singh Goalkeepers: Krishan B Pathak, David Harte (Ireland)