Cricket fans got lucky; hockey aficionados, not quite so. Just one match into the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL), all the nine players from Pakistan are packing their bags.
In light of the recent events on the India-Pakistan border and the aftermath, all franchises have sought replacements. Addressing the concerns of the teams, Hockey India (HI) has given them the option of replacing the Pakistan players with players from the reserve pool.
“Because of the extraordinary situation prevalent right now, the teams wanted to get replacements,” Batra told HT on Tuesday. “Due to the sentiments of the public, they have been allowed to do so.”
No Pressure Decision
Officially, the decision, which Batra claims was made without any pressure from the government, seems to give franchises a choice. HT has learnt from reliable sources that none of the four affected franchises wanted to continue with players who were unsure of taking the turf.
While the franchises will get to choose replacements from the reserve pool, the Pakistan players will be paid the full amount of the contract. The decision, as per the statement released by HI, has been taken after informing both the Pakistan Hockey Federation and the international federation (FIH), all of whom are said to be “on board”.
The truth, however, might be far from it. Mumbai coach Ric Charlesworth is livid, and understandably so. With as many as four players from across the border in his squad, his plans are in disarray. “I had wanted a replacement policy in place before the start of the tournament,” said the Aussie. “There isn’t one, so now we have to deal with this.”
Mumbai are not the only one. Except Uttar Pradesh, all teams have at least one Pakistani in their ranks. Given that the teams will have to modify their strategies as well as shell out extra dough (apart from the Pakistan players, they will have also have to pay the reserves as per their base prices), one wonders if passing the buck was the only option Hockey India had.
Inputs by Navneet Singh