By Soubhik Ray
After the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) auction came to an end on Sunday, with all its cash splurging and upsets, several stalwarts of the game feel that the event will usher in lots of positives for India and the sport.
Admitting that the tournament comes at a good time for Indian hockey, national coach Michael Nobbs, said, "Our players will now learn to adapt. By playing with international players they will learn to improve their quality of the game."
The Indian team has had a dismal run of form in recent times under the tenure of Nobbs. Their performance at the London Olympics was disappointing, to say the least. India ended as the only team to lose all five matches in the group stage, and ended last on the list of the 12 participating nations.
Nobbs feels this crisis in Indian hockey can be put to an end courtesy HIL. "We need a big pool of players on the bench, so that we don't become dependent on a few seniors. And the tough challenges in HIL will act as a stepping stone for youngsters and national prospects."
HIL - styled on the success of its cash-rich kin, the Indian Premier League - also had its share of controversies. As franchises courted youngsters like VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh, India's veteran keeper and former captain Bharat Chetri failing to get any bidders set several tongues wagging.
But former India player Baljit Singh Saini begs to differ, "Teams select players according to those who suit their style of play and not by their names." Speaking on the positives of HIL, the 36-year-old, who will also don the coach's hat for the Ranchi Rhinos franchise said, "I think this is a great platform for grooming emerging stars."
Citing the example of 19-year-old defender Amit Rohidas, who was bought by Ranchi for USD 29,000, Baljit said, "I think he is going to be one of the best full-backs in the world. And it will be HIL which will give him the credit he deserves."
Bigwigs of the sport, like Indian legend Dhanraj Pillay and Dutch veteran Teun De Nooijer, also admitted that India can bring back their former glory through HIL. Pillay, who is also on the board for the Mumbai Magicians franchise, feels that "nurturing youngsters will help India regain their long-lost honour".
Two-time Olympic champion De Nooijer is certain that "this step by Hockey India (HI) will definitely make the sport more promising".
By Soubhik Ray