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New rule in HIL will have less pressure on flickers: Raghunath

Hockey India League press conference

 New Delhi : With every field goal being valued as two, the upcoming fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) is likely to witness some dramatic changes and VR Raghunath feels the rule altercation is a blessing in disguise for dragflickers who will now be under less pressure.

Raghunath, a penalty corner specialist himself, welcomed the new rule and said the pressure will be more on strikers to score field goals.

“It’s a big challenge for the forwards and an opportunity for the forwards to score more goals and show their skills. There will be less pressure on dragflickers and more pressure on forwards,” said Raghunath, who will captain Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the fourth HIL to be held across six cities of the country from January 18 to February 21.

Raghunath’s counterpart from defending champions Ranchi Rays, Ashley Jackson is not too pleased with the new rule but said the change will make the game more interesting.

“As a dragflicker I don’t like the rule. But on the flip side it is also a challenge for the defence because you will get to see more attacking hockey,” he said.

“It is interesting because if you are one goal down in the last minute you still have a chance to win the game.”

India captain Sardar Singh, who will lead his new franchise Jaypee Punjab Warriors this season having represented Delhi Waveriders in the last three editions, said the new rule is equal for all.

“The rule is same for all. It is an interesting thought and all teams will try to score more field goals this year,” he said.

According to the new scoring rule, a field goal during the HIL would count as two while a penalty corner would continue to be counted as one goal, making field goals twice as valuable. However, penalty strokes would continue to be counted as one except when a stroke is awarded for a deliberate foul during the execution of a penalty corner.

All captains of the six teams — Raghunath (Uttar Pradesh Wizards), Jackson (Ranchi Rays), Sardar (Jaypee Punjab Warriors), Moritz Furste (Kalinga Lancers), Nikkin Thimmaiah (Dabang Mumbai) and Simon Child (Delhi Waveriders) spoke their minds during the trophy unveiling programme of HIL.

Asked about the coming season, the captains feel with fresh players auctions and new team formations 2016 is a new beginning for all franchises.

“New season, new combinations for all teams but all teams looked very balanced. All the teams looks pretty good on paper,” Waveriders skipper Simon Child said.

Raghunath added: “Different combinations for all teams. The first week will be very important for all teams.”

Furste said having missed last HIL he was eagerly looking forward to the 2016 edition.

“It’s about building your own team, working on balance. It’s new for all players and teams now. It’s about building your own team and look to make the final four from where anything can happen,” the German said.

For Jackson, unpredictability will bring more spice to the upcoming HIL.

“Becasue of the new auctions it is almost like the first year. All teams have new combinations, new players so you can’t just predict what will happen,” the Englishman said.

2016 being the Olympic year, the upcoming HIL has more significance.

“This year being the Olympic year the HIL will be very important for all teams. Most of the big players of world are playing in this league. So we will get to know their positive and negatives points and vice versa,” Sardar said.

The ace midfielder, however, said all the players playing in the HIL need to take good care of their body to avoid injuries ahead of Olympics.

“Injuries are part of the game and it can happen anytime but being an Olympic year we will have to take good care of our body because their is lot of travelling and back-to-back matches during the league,” said Sardar.

Nine Pakistani players were part of the first edition of HIL in 2013 but were forced to leave the country before the start of the tournament following protests from a few political organisations. Since then no Pakistan player has been included in the last three three editions of the tournament so far.

The coming edition of HIL also doesn’t feature a single Pakistani player and Hockey India made it clear that in future too, they will not be considered until they apologise for their “unacceptable behaviour” during the 2014 Champions Trophy.

Sardar fully backed HI’s decision on Pakistani players’ participation in HIL.

“Pakistani players are suffering a lot but what they did during 2014 Champions Trophy was unacceptable. They still haven’t apologised for their behaviour so I feel they shouldn’t be allowed,” he said.

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