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HIL 2017: Time for capital gains as Delhi Waveriders face Jaypee Punjab Warriors

In HIL’s first visit to Delhi this term, Waveriders will seek an upswing in luck

Written by Tushar Bhaduri | New Delhi |
February 7, 2017 6:24:01 am
 Hockey India League, Ranchi Rays, UP Wizards, Indian hockey, Sardar Singh, Indian sports, Indian Express Waveriders will look forward to skipper and drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh. (Source: File)

There is a lopsided look to the Hockey India League points table as the competition visits the national capital for the first time this season. The top three teams have each played seven matches and the bottom three, three apiece. The scheduling anamoly has put third-placed Ranchi Rays (17 points) nine ahead of Uttar Pradesh Wizards (8) who follow them in the charts.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the bottom three teams are fighting for one spot in the semifinals, but the coaches of Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors, who battle on Tuesday, have a different take on the matter. These teams have won the title in two of the past three seasons, and are not used to be counted among the also-rans. “As always, the fight for the top four spots will go down to the wire, and we will be right there in the mix,” Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza said.

The team from the capital finds itself at the bottom of the league with four points at the moment, with two defeats and a draw, but D’Souza, a former India coach, finds hope in his team’s defensive solidity. “We have let in just four goals in three matches. We have performed well and our structure has been good, but we have not converted our chances. Once we do that, we should be alright.”

This will be the Waveriders’ first match in a week and the long gap between matches doesn’t help the team’s rhythm. Watching other teams rack up points can also pile up pressure when the team does take to the turf eventually. “I like to see the glass half full,” D’Souza, who has coached in several foreign countries as well, said. “I take all the pressure on myself, and not pass it on to the players.”

Tuesday’s match promises to be a match-up between styles. If the Waveriders bank on a solid defence and sound structure, Punjab Warriors display a free-flowing attacking brand of hockey. They lost 4-10 to Dabang Mumbai, beat Ranchi Rays 7-0 and lost a cliffhanger 6-5 to Kalinga in a controversial conclusion to be on six points. “We have played only three matches so far, and have a lot of time to catch up with the top teams. We have a lot of experienced players in our team and our job is not to get distracted by the ladder,” coach Barry Dancer said.

Having the likes of Sardar Singh and Mark Knowles in the line-up gives Punjab Warriors every chance of making a creditable defence of their title. “There is no guarantee that the top three teams right now will stay there when the league stage is over. We have seen that there is always upheaval towards the end,” said Dancer, under whose guidance Australia won gold in the 2004 Games. “We play a very attacking and expressive style and will not change our style. Delhi are good in defence but have not produced much going forward. We know they will be working to rectify that.”

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