Ranchi: Will the Rhino salute once again dominate the astro turf in Ranchi or will the Delhi wave continue to sweep away its opponents? The Hockey India League (HIL) final on Sunday promises a high-octane clash when the tournament's two most consistent teams trade punches for one last time to lay their hands on the glittering trophy.
Delhi, on their way to the semi-finals, had won all their league games before falling in the last one against Uttar Pradesh Wizards - while Ranchi lost just three of their 12 league fixtures. That's the kind of consistency fans have come to associate with these two finalists who were no match for their opponents in the semi-finals.
Among the top five goal-scorers in the tournament, five are from Delhi and four from Ranchi. That's a testimony to the dominance and goal-scoring consistency of these two teams. Ranchi striker Mandeep Singh is second on the chart with 10 goals, chased by Delhi defender Rupinderpal Singh on third with 7 strikes.
Both of them were on the scoresheet in the semi-finals, in which Ranchi got the better of UP 4-2 and Delhi brushed aside Punjab Warriors 3-1. Delhi have so far scored 40 goals in the tournament as opposed to 30 by Ranchi, who should thank Mandeep for scoring one-third of those. So quite clearly he is the cog that drives the Ranchi wheel with an uncanny knack of being at the right time at the right place, and Delhi need to chalk out a strategy to mark him closely and cramp for room in the striking circle.
But Mandeep will not find it easy to breach the last wall of Delhi's defence - the German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi. He has been instrumental in keeping Delhi opponents at bay and will once again post a tough challenge for Mandeep, Ashely Jackson, Nick Wilson, Justin Reid Ross and the rest.
Ranchi skipper Moritz Fuerste will rub shoulders with his counterpart Sardar Singh in the midfield, which has all ingredients of a mouth-watering battle between world's two best playmakers. While Fuerste was named the 2012 FIH Player of the Year, Sardar was among the five players short-listed for the award.
Rupinder has been consistent with his drag-flicks on penalty corners but the likes of Lloyd Norris Jones, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Simon Child and Oskar Deecke pose equal amount of threat inside the 25-yard line.
All in all, there is equal amount of arsenal on both sides of the halfway line. But what's guaranteed is an edge-of-the-seat match and that there won't be an upset as both the teams equally deserve to lift the trophy.