Two Uttar Pradesh Wizards matches in the Hockey India League (HIL) have been shifted from Lucknow to Delhi as polling for the state assembly election is scheduled in the state capital on February 19. The two matches are against Delhi Waveriders on that day and Jaypee Punjab Warriors the following day.
“It’s really disappointing that fans here will be missing the action at least in two matches,” Abhijeet Sarkar, corporate communication head of Sahara India, told HT on Monday. Sahara India Pariwar owns Uttar Pradesh Wizards. “The matches could have been organised here itself without any problem as game starts at 7pm, two hours after the end of polling. We were ready to handle the pressure of security in the match,” he said.
“The biggest loss will be for Lucknow fans who wait throughout the year for HIL matches to be held here,” said Sarkar. “We know what will be the response of fans in Delhi when two outsider teams play,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards, which has been part of the cash-rich Hockey India League since its inception in 2013, will play their first home match against last year’s runners-up Kalinga Lancers on February 10.
They will take on Ranchi Rays on February 16 and Dabang Mumbai on February 22. All the matches will be played at the Dhyanchand Stadium at Guru Gobind Singh Sports College instead of Padamshree Mohd Shahid Stadium in Gomti Nagar as being speculated earlier.
It will be first major hockey event in the new season here after the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup in December. India won that tournament in style. “Lucknowites’ love for hockey is well-known and the shifting of two matches from here is a big loss for the fans,” former Indian hockey captain Rajneesh Mishra said on Monday.