New Delhi: The much awaited inaugural edition of the Hockey India League is set to begin with the hosts Delhi Waveriders taking on their rivals from north India Punjab Warriors in the first match of the franchise-based, five-team competition at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Monday.
Delhi will have a big task at hand to counter the punches thrown by the Punjab side led by Australia captain Jamie Dwyer. Not that Punjab won't face similar problems. They will have to make sure that they cut down on Delhi and India skipper Sardar Singh's fluidity to guide play from the midfield.
"We will try to restrict Jamie at all sides of the ground as he is the key playmaker and very quick on field," Delhi coach AK Bansal said in the pre-match press conference. And Dwyer made it clear who they will be targeting. "We will stop Sardar. Delhi Waveriders have strong midfielders and Sardar Singh is the best among them," Dwyer hinted on his team's tactics.
Besides Sardar, Delhi have the talented India youngster Yuvraj Walmiki alongside international stars like Nicolas Jacobi, Pirmin Blaak, Lloyd Norris-Jones. Germany's Jacobi and Dutchman Blaak are two of the world's best goalkeepers, ensuring that Delhi's post is well guarded.
But Punjab too are one of the hot favourites to win the trophy, knowing the hockey tradition associated with the north Indian state. Dwyer has in his ranks promising young Indian players like Gurmail Singh, who are set to learn a lot over the next 28 days from the likes of Jaap Stockmann, Mark Knowles, Simon Orchard and Kieran Govers.
There is no dearth of experienced Indian players for Punjab either. Ignace Tirkey, Bharat Chetri, SV Sunil and Shivendra Singh take care of that part making Punjab a side to watch out for.
The match is scheduled to start at 2000 IST and will be telecast Live on Start Sports and Star Cricket.
For tournament format and rules, click here