Delhi-Punjab clash to kick off Hockey India League
Mohali – The second edition of the Hero Hockey India League will get underway on Saturday with Jaypee Punjab Warriors taking on Delhi Waveriders in the opening match at the newly-built International Hockey Stadium here under lights.
With the winner taking home a whooping Rs 2.5 crore, and the runner up getting Rs 1.25 crore, there is a lot at stake for teams to win the tournament and both Punjab and Delhi would aim to begin the tournament on a winning note.
In the previous edition of the HIL, the two teams faced each other in the semi-final, in which Delhi defeated Punjab 3-1.
However, Delhi Waveriders finished runners-up, losing the final to title winners Ranchi Rhinos. In the bronze medal match, Punjab Warriors lost 4-3 in dramatic fashion to Uttar Pradesh Wizards, after leading 3-0.
The Jaypee Group owned Punjab Warriors have a good mix of young and experienced players. Their overseas squad comprises primarily Australian players, with captain Jamie Dwyer being the leader.
With Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann and experienced players like Ignace Tirkey and Mark Knowles in their ranks, Punjab boasts of a strong defensive line-up.
Also, the strong presence of Dwyer in the midfield will allow Punjab to revolve their play around the experienced captain.
Punjab’s forwardline consists of players like Shivendra Singh, SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh and a youngster Affan Yousuf, who possess the ability to torment any opposition’s defense.
With the highly experienced Barry Dancer and Jagbir Singh in their think-tank, Punjab will have strategies in place before the first game.
The highest goal-scorer of the 2013 edition of HIL, Sandeep Singh was added to the Punjab Warrior’s squad during the auction last year.
A fine penalty corner specialist with loads of experience, Sandeep Singh is surely the player to watch out for not only in the first game, but the entire tournament.
Delhi Waveriders is co-owned by the Wave Group and Bollywood star John Abraham, who is a 13 per cent stake-holder of the side.
The runners-up of last year, Delhi Waveriders have in their ranks a star player like Sardar Singh, who is the captain of their side and also the highest paid Indian of the league.
Last season, Delhi Waveriders had an 11-match unbeaten run but could not go on to win the tournament.
This year, although they lack big names in their line-up, their overseas squad does have quite a few experienced names including Simon Child of New Zealand, Jason Wilson of Australia, Lloyd Norris-Jones of South Africa, Andr?s Mir of Spain and goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi of Germany.
The onus to score goals for Delhi will be on Indian sensation Yuvraj Walmiki and penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh, who was the highest goal-scorer for the team last season.
The presence of Sardar Singh in the centre half will allow the Delhi Waveriders to break opposition attacks. His ability to feed the ball to the forward line will also help Delhi Waveriders to consistently stay on the offensive.
However, it will be interesting to see whether Delhi Waveriders can ride on the experience of Sardar Singh and upset the Punjab side on their home turf.