New Delhi (25 January 2017): Kalinga Lancers and Dabang Mumbai made entertaining starts in the 5th edition of the six-team Hockey India League (HIL) which kicked off earlier this week.
The HIL opening clash between Dabang Mumbai and Ranchi Rays on January 21 ended in a dramatic 3-3 draw but Dabang Mumbai continues to impress in their second match against Uttar Pradesh Wizards played on Tuesday (24 January). A 60th-minute goal by Dutchman Robbert Kemperman ensured Dabang Mumbai prevailed 4-3 in a nail-biting encounter at Mahindra Hockey Stadium, Mumbai.
Drag-flick specialist Harmanpreet Singh, India’s hero in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016, produced a stellar performance with goals in the 24th and 32nd minutes in Dabang Mumbai’s win.
Kalinga Lancers, who lost 6-1 in 2016 final to Punjab Warriors and have some outstanding players in their line-up including German midfielder Moritz Fuerste and Indian striker SK Uthappa, currently lead the Hockey India League pool standings on 10 points from two wins.
They defeated 2014 champions Delhi Wave Riders 1-0 in their opening tie and triumphed 4-2 over Ranchi Rays in the second match of the league. Australian Glenn Turner struck twice in Kalinga Lancers’ victory at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Monday in front of a near-capacity home crowd.
Turner was awarded prize money of Rs 50,000 for scoring the Coal India Goal of the Match and an additional Rs 50,000 for the Man of the Match award.
Kalinga Lancers’ goalkeeper Abhinav Kumar Pandey won a prize of Rs 25,000 for being the Hero Young Achiever of the Match whilst the Most Entertaining Player of the Match was awarded to Christopher Ruhr of Ranchi Rays that came with prize money of Rs 25,000.
Defending champions Jaypee Punjab Warriors will begin their title defense against Dabang Mumbai on 27 January at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium.
Punjab Warriors have been the most consistent side in the competition over the past three seasons. Under Australian Barry Dancer’s watch, they triumphed last season and finished runners-up in 2014 and 2015. They have a big presence of foreign players in the form of Mark Knowles, Simon Orchard, Robert van der Horst and local stars Sardar Singh and SV Sunil in the squad.
Veteran Indian midfielder Gurbaj Singh was the most expensive buy in the HIL auctions held in November last year. Gurbaj fetched a whopping USD 99, 000 in a bid by the Ranchi Rays. The 2015 champions also made the highest bid for a foreign player, picking German forward Christopher Ruhr up for USD 75,000.
After knockout clashes, we will witness the final set to take place on the 25 and 26 February, respectively, with six sides battling it out for the top honors.
The league stages will feature 30 matches from January 21 to February 22, and the four knockout matches including the two semi-finals and the final will be played over the weekend of February 26 in Mohali, the home of the defending champions Punjab Warriors.