All’s well that ends well. HIL inaugural edition ends with many fireworks in air, media and TRP. Prize money which run into crores and players getting richer, game after game were a thing could only have dreamt of even 2 years before! For the first time, people saw players becoming crorepati in a league game in India, outside cricket. It also ends with some very heartwarming melodies which sounds mellifluous for the future.
At the start of the inaugural HIL, best and safest bet for the top scorers must have been Jackson or Dwayer but surprisingly, 2 Singhs, Sandeep and Mandeep came on top of the pops!! Still in their 22 and 17, one cemented the reputation of a deadly drag flicker and the other earned name for his predatory habits scoring 10 field goals, one less to Sandeep. Mandeep even has scored probably the best goal in the Semis, singlehandedly. The other discoveries of the month long event were Malak of PW, Harbir of UPW and Satbir of MM, all sons of Sardars. Raghunath and Rupinderpaal reinvented themselves with a shout in the crowd of talents. It all happened when the custodians of the goals were GKS like Jacobi, Stockmann and Cortis who carry huge experience on their head and shoulders! Now, compare this list to I league (and we came to a sad reality) which is heavily weighted by the foreign boots and the best Indian finisher is outside the top 10 bracket. Not only in our football world, all the top leagues of European soccer leagues are looking for a local talent to reach the top of their domestic league and Latin Americans are scripting European history for years. Moreover, we have found our Pirlo/ Xavi in the form of Sardara, player of the tournament, who waved the Delhi team on his tune throughout.
But, one odd figure is to be scrutinized, why so fewer goals were scored by PCs?? In modern hockey, generally a team scores in at least 1 in 3 takings but HIL was well below this mesmeric average. Leave aside Sandeep-Raghunath, no other established drag flicker shone brightly; even S and R were below average to their standards.
Well, the best part was the maturing of the youngsters. They have got so much which is hard to define. Someone, as young as 18 has spent time with worlds best coaches and players and shared food, Astroturf, skills, laugh-tear and even movies. It will surely blossom the bud. For the first time, the players were exposed to the video techniques and charts which coach like Roelant Oltmans introduced in and put them under a microscope where a smaller error got magnified and discussed freely.
Guns blaze at the Pak border and smoked even in HIL. The worst hit was Mumbai squad which comprised 5 talented Pakistani players. A brilliant coach like Ric Charlsworth could never cope up by that set back and finished at unlikely bottom. How good was it to send neighboring talent back and how much it helped HIL is another chapter to be discussed at a separate space.
Broadcasters were extremely happy with the TRP as it has successfully defeated the viewership of even Euro-12. It registered 4 times TRP to the champions’ trophy, the 3rd biggest tournament of FIH. Craziness at venues like Ranchi refused to die down, so much so that in the SF 5K were in, 5K were in nearby Football stadium enjoying on giant screen and 2K were still waiting to be witness of the action!!It has inspired Leandro Negre so much that he awarded plenty of tournaments to India in 2 years which includes even Champions trophy.
What is the way ahead now? There are pockets in India like Bhopal, Varansi, Coorg and Haryana (Shahbad) where hockey is equally popular as in Ranchi. These can be introduced as a new franchise in the next edition for wider talent pool, reach, promises and hope for new generation of younger India. Till then, chak de…