Opening a new chapter
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It's not the breathtaking laser show marking the beginning of Hockey India League, but the fireworks in the subsequent Delhi Waveriders vs Jaypee Punjab Warriors match that will indicate what to expect over the next 28 days as the ambitious project kicks off at the National Stadium in the capital on Monday evening.
Both Delhi and Punjab are formidable on paper, comprising players who rank among the best in the world, but if that doesn't translate into spectacular hockey, it could be primarily because the squads haven't had sufficient time to train together.
With all five teams assembling only last week — in fact, the Pakistani players joined their respective teams only late Saturday — how much co-ordination will there be on the pitch remains to be seen. Therefore the team that adapts quickly will have a clear advantage.
Punjab are led by Australian striker Jamie Dwyer who will spearhead their attack along with Indian forwards Shivendra Singh and SV Sunil. The Sardar Singh-led Delhi too possess a formidable frontline, with the likes of Gurvinder Singh Chandi, Yuvraj Walmiki, Danish Mujtaba, New Zealand's Simon Child and Pakistani Muhammad Rizwan Sr in their ranks.
Delhi coach AK Bansal says while the teams are expected to test the waters early on, his side will look to strike an early blow. "As of now we don't have any strategy because you need to play at least a match or two to plan a strategy. But the teams will be cautious in their first match. Forwards are our biggest strength. So we will try to play attacking hockey and score goals early."
Dwyer said Punjab will look to stop the dangerous Sardar Singh. "We have a good team, but every team will be tough in this tournament. Hopefully, Sardar doesn't get the ball too much. He is a world-class player so we will try to stop him from getting the ball as much as possible."
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