Mumbai: Notwithstanding the Hockey India diktat asking players to either stay away from the World Series Hockey (WSH) or risk losing their place in the national side, the current Indian team members have signed on and received advanced payments to play in the league beginning next month.
A total of 150 Indian players, including all the top stars from the present national side, have virtually signed a three-year-contract with the organisers of the league to be played across different cities of the country from December 17 to January 22.
WSH is a lucrative franchise-based event organised by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports. IHF is not affiliated to the FIH and the world body recognises Hockey India (HI) as the national federation.
The tournament has been in the centre of the 'club vs country' controversy as it is not a FIH-sanctioned event.
FIH has also threatened to bar the players from its future tournaments if they take part in WSH. The world body has suggested the players to wait till 2013 when FIH and Hockey India launch their own world league.
A media release from the organisers on Thursday claimed that veteran forwards Arjun Halappa and Prabhjot Singh, goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and mid-fielder Sardar Singh have been signed up by the organisers to play in the tournament that would feature eight franchise teams for 61 matches.
These players will be captains in the inaugural edition of the tournament.
The other Indian players include ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, current captain Rajpal Singh, goalkeeper Bharat Chetri and emerging champion Yuvraj Walmiki, who dazzled with his tournament-winning goal at the Asian Champions Challenge.
WSH also marks the comeback of former players Viren Rasquinha and Dhanraj Pillay.
The league will also see the participation of Gurjinder Singh, the India U-21 captain, 19-year-old forward Kangujam Chinglensana Singh, forward Victo Singh and the best player of the last National Games, S K Uthappa.
Prominent international players who are on the roster include Baljeet Singh, Deepak Thakur, Dhananjay Mahadik, Diwakar Ram, Gurbaj Singh, Mandeep Antil, Prabodh Tirkey, Roshan Minz, Shivendra Singh, S V Sunil, Tushar Khandker, and William Xalxo.
"I am really excited about playing in the inaugural edition of World Series Hockey. It's a great initiative for the sport of hockey and I can't wait to play alongside the best hockey players from India and around the world," said Prabhjot Singh.
Karl Da Costa, Deputy General Manager, Nimbus Sport, said, "We are proud to announce the participation of all the star Indian players in World Series Hockey. One of the key focus areas for the league is to fortify the talent pool of hockey in India and it will be a splendid display of skill as our Indian champions will play with global superstars."
The WSH will involve 200 leading players - Indian and international - who will showcase their talent in 61 matches.
It will be a multi-city franchise-based league with players being allocated to the teams based on the internationally accepted and practised 'draft' system.
The inaugural edition of the league, with a total prize money of approximately USD two million, will comprise eight teams out of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Pune, Bhopal, Punjab, Ranchi and Rourkela.