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Focus on Junior World Cup winners ahead of Hockey India League opener

The hosts Dabang Mumbai have five players who figured in India’s triumphant campaign last month, while Ranchi have four. Ranchi Rays are also coached by Harendra Singh, who guided India to victory.

other sports Updated: Jan 20, 2017 22:03 IST
B Shrikant
The spotlight will be on India’s Junior World Cup winners when Dabang Mumbai take on Ranchi Rays in Hockey India League.
The spotlight will be on India’s Junior World Cup winners when Dabang Mumbai take on Ranchi Rays in Hockey India League.(PTI)

The spotlight will be on India’s Junior World Cup winners when Dabang Mumbai take on Ranchi Rays in the Hockey India League (HIL) opener at the Mahindra Stadium on Saturday.

The hosts have five players who figured in India’s triumphant campaign last month, while Ranchi have four. Ranchi are also coached by Harendra Singh, who guided India to victory.

With India chief coach Roelant Oltmans announcing that he would consider the juniors’ performance in HIL while picking his team, the players will be fancying their chances.

“It is a great chance for the youngsters. It is great that the core probables for the Junior World Cup are involved in HIL and this is a big opportunity for them to prove that they are ready to take the next step,” said Harendra.

READ | Hockey India League’s 5th edition a chance for juniors to establish credentials

Mumbai coach Jay Stacy was confident the youngsters would make their mark. “We had these players last year too and gave them enough chances. After a year, they are mature and the confidence will help them do well in HIL. I was in Lucknow with the Australia team and had a chance to watch the Indian players — they had a fantastic tournament and I am sure that will help them perform,” he said.

Stacy said he had a balanced side and hoped Mumbai would make the knockout stage. “We showed improvement last year – from winning one match each in the previous editions, we won four last year. This year, I am sure we will continue to improve and make the semifinals,” said Stacy.

Harendra, whose balanced team will be one of the favourites, said all teams were capable of winning the title. “There is no clear favourite, all six teams can win. The league is tougher this year,” he said.