Doha: Pakistan hockey captain Mohammed Imran hailed the Hockey Indian League (HIL), saying it will help players from both the nations to learn from their European counterparts. As many as nine of the 15 players who came under the hammer at Sunday's HIL auctions were eagerly grabbed by the five franchises for the league that will be held in January-February in five Indian cities.
Imran said that watching Pakistani players in the HIL will be a treat for Indian spectators. "Whenever an Indian or Pakistani player is playing in the sub-continent, he is welcomed well. Our hockey has a different charm and appeal," Imran was quoted as saying by The Peninsula.
Imran said the league will also help players from both sides of the border. "The HIL is a good step forward by India and it will help the players from both the nations, creating an opportunity to learn from the European players," he said. Since the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, cricket has remained off-limits for Pakistanis but hockey has not. Pakistani cricketers were a part of the first IPL in 2008 but since then they stayed away as cricketing ties between the two countries snapped.
Pakistan, however, travelled to India for the 2011 World Cup semi-final. A bilateral limited-overs series will now be played later this month for the first time since 2007.
Pakistan hockey team also played the 2010 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi while six Pakistanis were a part of the unsanctioned World Series Hockey (WSH) held earlier this year.
Top players like former Pakistan skipper Zeeshan Ashraf, legendary Shakeel Abbassi, star forward Rehan Butt, Adnan Maqsood, Waseem Ahmed and Tariq Aziz were members of the WSH. And now some young Pakistani players will be seen in action again in the HIL.
Delhi Wave Riders bought Mohammad Rizwan Sr ($26,000) and Mohammad Rizwan Jr $10,000) while Mumbai Magicians bought Mahmood Rashid ($41,000), Fareed Ahmad ($21,000), Mohammad Tousiq ($27,000) and Imran Butt ($5,500). Jaypee Punjab Warriors got Kashif Shah ($9,500) while Ranchi bid for Shafaq Rasool ($10,000) and Mohammed Irfan ($5,000).