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Hockey India League a success, but can still improve
Ranchi Rhinos won the first edition of the Hockey India League after defeating Delhi Waveriders 2-1 in the final of the championship. Vasudevan Bhaskaran, former Indian captain and coach said, 'I thought Delhi was up ahead in their game against Ranchi, but they just threw the match away.' It was a spirited display by the Ranchi Rhinos, after Delhi got into the score-sheet with Simon Child finding back of the net in 25th minute.

Delhi was better side out of the two teams, but their game in the last quarter asked many a questions. Bhaskaran added, “In the last quarter of the match, the Ranchi Rhinos planned their game very well. Their captain, Moritz Fürste did a wonderful job as well.”

In fact, Furtse was one of the best players of the championship. It was in the latter stage of the game that Rhinos scored their two goals. Austin Smith scored in the 55th minute and Manpreet Singh in the 63rd minute to lift the title. With the first edition being a success, lot is expected from the second edition of the HIL.

Bhaskaran said, “Basically, the HIL was a great success, where current Indian players also played and we also found out about the weakness of the Indian players, some were not fit enough, some quality was also missing. But, there were some Indian players who maintained their excellence. There were 3-4 Indian players who were finds of the tournament such as Sardar Singh, Virendra Lakra, Mandeep Singh etc.” So these weaknesses should be corrected by the player and improve upon it.

The HIL started by Hockey India is a championship to help Indian hockey, Indian youngsters and also bring back the hockey crowd. Hockey, not cricket was once the most popular sport in India. It was a positive sight to see the crowd coming back to the sport, primarily in Ranchi, where the sport is still popular.

Mohammed Riaz, former Indian player feels that it is the youngsters who should make the best use of it. He said, “The HIL is a wonderful platform for Indian youngsters with a number of world class players. The younger players will improve their game as well playing in such leagues. Playing at this level, the younger players’ morale would go up and Indian hockey would benefit with it.”

Bhaskaran is happy with how HIL has progressed but is disappointed about few things. “It has helped players financially, but it has not helped the system of the game. Only 40% of the Indian players played the game. Next year, the HIL needs much more thinking,” suggested Bhaskaran.

There was a good mix of international as well as foreign players in all the five franchises participating in the competition. Bhaskaran is also aware of the potential of the HIL, but feels the competition is going to be good only when the two hockey bodies, HI and IHF come together.

He has few recommendations for the future editions of the HIL. “There should be more of Indian goalkeepers representing various teams. I am not against foreign goalkeepers, but we need to give chances to Indian goalkeepers as well,” Bhaskaran added.

He also feels the same as far as Indian coaches are concerned. “There should be more Indian coaches in various franchises. Hockey India should give more chances to Indian coaches,” he added. It was only Delhi Waveriders, which had an Indian coach. One has to take note that there is no dearth of Indian goalies or coaches in India. If the league is meant for the upliftment of Indian hockey, such things have to be kept in mind.

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