New Delhi: Delhi Waveriders got off to a winning start in the Hockey India League against Punjab Warriors in the opening game of the tournament on Monday and will take that winning momentum into Wednesday's encounter against Mumbai Magicians who will open their campaign here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
The speculation surrounding the availability of Pakistan players has ended, with Hockey India and Pakistan Hockey Federation mutually agreeing that it's safe for the players to return home. But more than any other team, it's Mumbai that will feel the loss as they had bought the most number of Pakistanis (4) in the auction. Delhi too had a couple of Pakistan players but with a win under their belt, they are in a better frame of mind to regroup.
Delhi benefited from two owns goals by Punjab to win 2-1 and will like to score a few from their sticks this time to overcome Mumbai. The hosts missed a number of opportunities in the first game and therefore Sardar Singh and his boys will have to look after their finishing on Wednesday. Rupinder Pal Singh failed to convert any of the three penalty corners Delhi created, which showed how much they are missing the experience of inured Taeke Taekema.
Mumbai will begin their campaign with an away game, which in itself is a difficult prospect, but in Sandeep Singh they have a star whose drag-flicks are feared world over. He may not be in the current Indian team, but is certainly the star attraction of the match. That, in fact, is an added incentive for him to perform. A lot will depend on his form as he lets it rip at the penalty corners.
However, players like Joel Carroll and Matthew Swann can't be taken lightly by Delhi who will have to beat India's best custodian PR Sreejesh to score. Other than Sreejesh, there are the likes of Sarvanjit Singh, Satbir Singh and PT Rao in the Mumbai team, equally capable of turning a match on its head.
Mumbai coach Ric Charlesworth has coached in India before and will know how to get the best out of his Indian stars, though he must be lamenting the loss of Pakistan players.