New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) Indian ace drag-flicker and defender V.R. Raghunath on Saturday said the Uttar Pradesh Wizards will be looking to break the jinx and will try to enter the final of the Hockey India League (HIL) edition starting from January 21.
“We are the one team with maximum semi-final appearances and this time we will be looking at breaking that jinx and moving into the final,” Raghunath said in a statement.
Apart from Raghunath, the Wizards team features Indian senior men’s team skipper P.R. Sreejesh, India forwards Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh, midfielder Chinglensana Singh Kanjugam apart from junior India side’s defender Gurinder Singh.
The team also includes a formidable line-up of foreign players such as Netherlands Sander Baart, Wouter Jolie and Seve van Ass, Australia’s Edward Ockenden, 2016 Olympic gold medallists from Argentina Agustin Mazilli and Gonzalo Peillat.
“I feel our team has the best mix of experienced Indian and foreign players who have had a very good run in the 2016 Rio Olympics and I am confident they will be carrying the same form into the league,” the 28-year-old said.
“We will be getting together as a team in a week’s time at our home ground in Lucknow and we are looking forward to getting over the first hurdle of making it to the semi-finals,” he added.
Raghunath further insisted that this year’s HIL will be significant for his counterparts from the senior men’s team, who must work much harder to save their spot in the Indian camp, which begins in March.
“With a great show by the junior men’s team at the Junior World Cup, many of them will be pushing for a spot in the senior camp. Hence I feel it’s important for the senior players to come up with significant and consistent performance to ensure they stay in the national team,” Raghunath said.
“But it’s also a good thing for Indian hockey that we have a good pool of players now who have it in them to play big ticket matches at the international level,” he added.
Raghunath also reckoned that it is important for the players to get off to a good start this season and make use of this platform to ace their game in an all-important calendar year for hockey.
“I think after the Rio Olympics, 2017 Men’s Asia Cup and the World League semi-final and final will be the major tournaments we will be playing this year so I think it is really important to get off to a good start and be in the core group of the national program until next men’s World Cup in 2018,” the Wizards player said.
“We must look at gaining as much experience from playing with the best in the HIL as this is the best platform to understand the foreign players’ strengths and weaknesses which will help us plan better when we play against them in major international tournaments this year,” he added.