The five-day break in the third edition of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) was like godsend for Hyderabad Sultans. They have worked on their fitness and various attack combinations here during this period, gearing up for the next leg.
As the PHL resumes after the first break on Tuesday, the Sultans would hope to capitalize on the work they put in during the break when they take on Orissa Steelers in the opening match of the third week. In the other matches in this week, hosts Chennai Veerans take on Chandigarh Dynamos on Wednesday while Steelers meet Sher-E-Jalandhar on Thursday. This would a good opportunity for both Sultans and Shers, who are placed second in the table, to consolidate their position.
Dependent on players imported from all over the country in the absence of local talent, the Sultans didn’t had any preparatory camp, unlike most other teams, as their players assembled here only on the day of their first match against Veerans on January 4.
As a result, they were not 100 per cent match-fit and struggled in their first two matches. Some of them like Shakeel Abbasi and Tariq Aziz of Pakistan had not even touched a hockey stick after the Asian Games and landed in Chennai after their first match, the combinations too failed to work. The Sultans did register a facile win over Maratha Warriors to open their account with three points, but the players were still looking breathless after spending a few minutes on the turf.
Thus during the break, coach Mukesh Kumar conducted some lengthy schedules to build up their stamina and prepare them for the sterner tests ahead.
“The boys had some good sessions here and we are happy with their progress. We hope to make the most of our chances in this week,” Sultans’ manager G Satyanarayana told Hindustan Times over phone from Chennai.
Apart from building stamina, Mukesh also decided to give more leadership role to midfielder Vikram Pillay and Pakistani stalwart Shakeel Abassi to guide the younger lot during a match.
While the Sultans have struggled in their first two matches, the Steelers have quietly gone about their job, winning two matches, one in extra-time. They have five points from two matches and have looked solid at the back with Dilip Tirkey standing tall among all defenders on view here. In Bimal Lakra, they have a good feeder who can run up and down the pitch helping in offence and defence alike. Goalkeeper Dinesh Ekka has shown good form under the bar but they will now have the services of Pakistani goalkeeper Salman Akbar, who had joined the team late because of his marriage. They have a number of young players like Bruno Lugun, who have impressed with their pace and stick work but they need to be more consistent.