Bhubaneswar, January 21: The third edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) is all set to begin at the Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday when home team Kalinga Lancers take on debutants Ranchi Rays.
It will be interesting to see which team bags the first points to take an early lead in the league standings in the month long tourment which will eventually culmite at the Major Dhyan Chand tiol Stadium in New Delhi on February 22.
Young Indian hockey talents are eager to perform in the event alongside top intertiols like “Player of the Year” Mark Knowles or “Goalkeeper of the Year” Jaap Stockmann and learn from them.
The Rays are focussed on winning matches and making an immediate impact by reaching the knockouts in their debut season. On the other hand, the Lancers, who finished bottom of the table in their debut season, look a much improved team this year.
Then, led by experienced India skipper Sardar Singh, defending champions Delhi Waveriders will start their campaign against the Uttar Pradesh Wizards on January 23 in Lucknow.
Boasting of celebrated players like Simon Child, Matt Gohdes, Pirmin Blaak along with top Indians such as Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurbaj Singh and Danish Mujtaba, the Delhi–based team is once again the top contender for the title and is aiming to win back–to–back championships.
On the other hand, the VR Raghuth–led Wizards will step on their home turf with the single–minded objective of starting the league on a winning note. The two–time semi–filists now hope to break their jinx and make it to the summit clash.
Last year’s filists Jaypee Punjab Warriors will commence their battle against another new team — Dabang Mumbai — in their first match on January 23 at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai.
The Jamie Dwyer–led Warriors plan to go one better and finish last year’s unfinished job. With top players such as Stockman, Knowles, Sandeep Singh and SV Sunil in their ranks, the Warriors are among the favourites. IANS