DESPITE THE organisers' best efforts to make the Premier Hockey League a glamorised avatar of the national sport in the country, the previous three editions of the PHL have been marred by clashes between players and, more importantly, between players and umpires.
So, when local favourites Chandigarh Dynamos take on former champions Hyderabad Sultans in the opening match at the Sector 42 hockey stadium on Thursday, they would be hoping to avoid the stricter penalties that have been lined up for breach of discipline.
Addressing the media on Wednesday, PHL consultant Maurits Hendriks of Spain admitted that the proposed suspension on green cards and harsher punishments for indiscipline were prompted by repeated incidents of violence.
"India's problem of indiscipline at the world stage begins at the domestic level. With no firm rules to check player violence in the country, they carry on this attitude to international events and pay the penalty," has been the common refrain of former players. With new rules for infringements and fouls, the PHL is hoping things get better.
On another front, even as murmurs about organisers ESPN-Star Sports waning interest in the project were getting stronger, the list of foreign players was finally released "officially". As had been speculated all along, apart from the eight Pakistanis, there are no recognizable names in the list of 21.
"Being an Olympic year, no team wants to risk injuries to its main players," officials had admitted early on. They did not, with Korean You Hyu Sik the only player of serious mettle.
The Dynamos, though, would be hoping their foreign imports - Pakistan's Zeeshan Ashraf and Ghazanfar Ali and Dutch Huib Zwerver - come good. Having finished a lowly fifth last year, they have been reinforced by the return of some key players like Sandeep Singh.
The Sultans, on the other hand, have a new captain in Sardara Singh. The Sultans, who won the inaugural edition in 2005 at home (Hyderabad), are devoid of big stars. Even their foreign players are not too well known. However, coach Madhukaran is confident that, despite the lack of big names, his team would be able to put in a good performance.