New Delhi: Delhi Waveriders is the only team in the ongoing Hockey India League (HIL) to have an all-Indian support staff and captain Sardar Singh feels their knowledge of Indian conditions and local players has been a major factor in the team's success so far in the tournament.
Unbeaten so far in the competition, Delhi are leading the points table with 22 points from five games and Sardar feels the team's support staff played a big role in these results. "AK Bansal [head coach] has been part of the hockey scene in India and has so much of experience that his strategies and tactics make all the difference in our game," he said.
Speaking about how the domestic players are benefiting from the presence of international stars in the league, Sardar said the Indians have a tendency to crack under pressure and they are now learning how to handle difficult situations during a game. "They guide us on how to play from a particular point on the field and move ahead. If the team is losing, then how to play and if the team is winning, then how we should manage the game. These small things always make a big difference for a team that is looking to win matches," he added.
Leading a team with multiple international stars could be a herculean task for any captain and many have crumbled under the pressure in the past, but the Delhi skipper is unperturbed by the difficult task at hand.
The 26-year-old defensive midfielder played down the pressure of leading a star-studded outfit in the competition. "As a rule we have open-ended discussions in our team, gaining inputs from all our players and not just our international players. The youngest of our team members can correct me if something is wrong and we all take it in a positive spirit, so there is nobody who is particularly authoritative in this team.
"As a captain it is my duty to understand and listen to the inputs given by all my team-mates. All these players are well known, many of them being Olympians, so their advice always adds value to the team," he said, adding the informal atmosphere on and off the field has helped the players to gel together as a unit.
Delhi, who boast of players like Simon Child of New Zealand and Nicolas Jacobi and Oskar Deecke of Germany to name a few, are one of the most settled units of the inaugural five-team franchise-based league.
Sardar, who is also captain of the national team, hailed the role HIL was playing in bringing glamour back to Indian hockey. "The response we have received has been superb. Almost all the stadiums are packed. This league has really put us on a global map and showcases the hockey talent that is present in India," he said.