New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) The 2016 Hockey India League (HIL) will be highlighted by the presence of some of the biggest overseas and Indian players. The six franchises who will battle for supremacy are Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Delhi Waveriders, Kalinga Lancers, Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Dabang Mumbai and defending champions Ranchi Rays.
The tournament will be played from January 18 to February 21. Two-time finalists Warriors have been able to retain some of their key players in the auction. One of the most prominent Indian stars they have retained is S.V. Sunil. Sunil, 26, has 174 international caps in which he has scored 56 goals and was retained for $50,000.
India captain Sardar Singh, who moved from Waveriders to Warriors for 2016 will be one to watch out for. The playmaker has led the national team to many famous victories and has an experience of 236 international caps. Sardar was crucial in India’s bronze medal winning performance at the recent Hockey World League (HWL) Finals.
India defender V.R. Raghunath will be keenly noticed in the back line of the Wizards. He hails from Karnataka and has an impressive record of 203 international caps and 127 goals. He has had a good run recently and will be keen on converting more goals from the penalty corner. Defender Birendra Lakra, 25, will be the key player for the defending champions.
The Rays, who have been miserly in conceding goals in last year’s edition, will be looking to do the same this time around. Jharkhand’s Lakra with 123 international caps is arguably one of the best players in the ranks of Rays. He was retained for $55,000 alongside Fergus Kavanagh from Ireland. India vice-captain P.R. Sreejesh will be guarding the goal of the Wizards and will be a force to reckon with. The Kerala man is amongst the top goalkeepers of the world and is in his prime currently. The combination of Raghunath and Sreejesh can be lethal in defence and will be one of the biggest assets for the Wizards.