Ready for turf wars: The five captains of Premier Hockey League Tier I teams (from left) Arjun Halappa (Bangalore Hi-Fliers), Viren Rasquinha (Maratha Warriors), Ignace Tirkey (Chennai Veerans), Gagan Ajit Singh (Sher-e-Jallandhar) and Dilip Tirkey (Hyderabad Sultans), with fashion designer Aparna Chandra.
— Photo by Rajeev Tyagi
Promising, Hyped, Lucrative
The Premier Hockey League, billed as ‘hockey in a new avatar’, is all set to begin in Hyderabad, writes M.S. Unnikrishnan
The Premier Hockey League (PHL), promised by its creators to be "pleasing to the eyes and soothing to the senses", gets off the blocks at the Gachhibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on January 13.
The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) hopes that the PHL will take Indian hockey out of the pit of despair to the summit of world hockey. The IHF is confident of a paradigm shift once the PHL takes roots in the country. The IHF and ESPN-Star Sports have joined hands to float a company with a 50-50 stake — PHL Pvt Ltd — to run the league.
They will be equal partners in profit and loss, and the company will have the sole right to organise the league till 2013.
The IHF will select the players and coaches and recruit foreign players while ESPN will handle the promotional campaign, ad collection, telecast of matches, finances, etc.
The PHL is being projected as a perfect platform to relaunch Indian hockey, to restore the country’s lost glory. The league has been designed to cater to the common fan as well as the connoisseur. The two-tier format is aimed at making the game exciting for the viewers, and challenging and rewarding for the players.
Innovations have been made in the format to keep the viewers glued. New concepts of time-outs will be introduced to enliven the games. Tied matches will be rare as the format ensures a decisive result.
The players will wear designer clothes and the team symbols and colours have all been chosen on the basis of the characteristics of the teams, which have been given snazzy names.
The PHL is designed to benefit all financially The IHF and the ESPN would, of course, make a killing at the sweepstakes, but even the players, coaches and managers will gain a lot. Besides the total prize money of Rs 71 lakh, individual players will earn handsome sums as appearance fee.
The champions of Tier I will earn Rs 30 lakh while the runners-up will pocket Rs 10 lakh. The champions of Tier II will receive Rs 4 lakh, with the runners-up getting Rs 2.5 lakh. The quantum of money to be shared between the players and the state associations will be determined by the IHF.
The players receiving appearance fee have been divided at four levels in Tier I, with the top ones getting Rs 1 lakh each while the Level B, C and D players will get Rs 35,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 15,000 each. The coach and manager of the Tier I teams will receive Rs 25,000 each.
The five Tier I team captains — Dilip Tirkey (Hyderabad Sultans), Ignace Tirkey (Chennai Veerans), Arjun Halappa (Bangalore Hi-Fliers), Viren Rasquinha (Maratha Warriors) and Gagan Ajit Singh (Sher-e-Jallandhar) — along with six other seniormost players will be given Rs 1 lakh each. The PHL is estimated to cost around Rs 2 crore in the inaugural year, and the budget may alter as the scope widens.
The IHF has cast its net far and wide to rope in the best available talent in the country, excluding some ‘contentious’ seniors with whom the federation has been at loggerheads before and after the Athens Olympics.
IHF president KPS Gill is happy that there is enough money for the players to make the league an attractive proposition.
"Hitherto, the boys have been playing hockey for the love of the game. It is important that hockey attracts good talent and if the players are assured of the best of facilities, I am confident that good players will stay put in the game, and new ones will be attracted," he says.
But there are also critics of the
league, who opine that the PHL is a mere "gimmick" which may
not serve the intended purpose of uplifting Indian hockey. But the IHF
thinks differently, and perhaps rightly so.
The 10 teams have been
divided into two tiers, Tier I and Tier II, known as Premier Division
and First Division respectively. Hyderabad Sultans, Chennai Veerans,
Bangalore Hi-Fliers, Maratha Warriors and Sher-E-Jallandhar are in Tier
I while Delhi Dazzlers, Lucknow Nawabs, Imphal Rangers, Bengal Tigers
and Chandigarh Dynamos figure in Tier II.
Each match will have four quarters of 17 minutes and 30 seconds each, instead of two halves. Three points will be awarded for winning a match during regulation time. If a match goes into extra time, the teams will be reduced to nine players each, while only seven per side will be permitted in the second half of extra time. For an extra-time victory, the winner will get two points while one point will go to the loser.
The matches will be played from Thursday to Sunday. ESPN will beam the matches live, with the flood-lit Tier I games getting the prime-time slot of 8 p.m. During the breaks, the strategies of the coaches will be revealed to the viewers but not to the rival players.
There will be up to five foreign players in each team. For the first time, top players of India and Pakistan will play in the same team. The IHF has managed to rope in virtually the entire Pakistani team which played in the recent Champions Trophy, including former captain Wasim Ahmed and dreaded penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas. Ahmed Alam, Kasif Javed, Mudassar Ali Khan, Mohammad Sarwar, Dilawar Hussain, Zeeshan Ashraf, Sohail Wasim and Saqlain Mohammad are the other Pakistani players who have confirmed their participation.
Players from Germany, Holland and England will not be seen though, as they would be busy with the European League.
The following are the players in the Tier 1 teams:
Hyderabad Sultans: Dilip Tirkey (captain), S Rajasekhar, Inderjeet Singh Chadha, Ajitesh Rai, Harsha Vardhan, Chandan Singh, Suresh, Lazarus Barla, Sameer Dad, Cyril Ekka, Sreejesh (goalkeeper), Nitya Jayanand, Susan Topno, Ahmed Alam (goalkeeper, Pakistan), Sohail Abbas and Wasim Ahmed (Pakistan). Coach: Narendra Pal Singh.
Bangalore Hi-Fliers: Arjun Halappa (captain), Bharat Kumar Chetri and Kuttappa (goalkeepers), Irshad Ali, Ajay Kumar, Chandrasekhar Xalxo, VS Vinay, Len Aiyappa, Prabodh Tirkey, Pawal Lakra, Amar Aiyamma, Sabu Varkey, Sandeep Michael, Hari Prasad, Sunil Ekka, Tushar Khandekar, Muddassar Ali Khan (Pakistan) and Kuhan Shanmuganathan (Malaysia). Coach: Ramesh Prameswaran.
Sher-e-Jallandhar: Gagan Ajit Singh (captain), Maninder Singh and Kamaldeep Singh (goalkeepers), Kanwalpreet Singh, Harpal Singh, Jatinder Pal Singh, Baljit Singh Saini, Prabhdeep Singh, Balwant Singh, Ajmer Singh, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Daljit Singh Dhillon, Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur, Didar Singh, Parminder Singh, Mohammed Sarwar (Pakistan) and Noor Azlan (Malaysia). Coach: Ramandeep Singh.
Maratha Warriors: Viren Rasquinha (captain), Adrian D’Souza and Baljit Singh (goalkeepers), Conroy Remedius, Jaswinder Singh, Sunil Yadav, Vijay Alphonso, Dhanraj Pillay, Girish Pimpale, Shivendra Singh, Devinder Kumar, Errol D’Silva, Hemant Ghete, Humza Mujtaba, Junaid Jada, Ali Raza, Mohammed Saqlain and Kashif Jawwad (Pakistan). Coach: Clarence Lobo.
Ignace Tirkey (captain), Devesh Chouhan and Rajarajan (goalkeepers),
William Xalxo, Nitin Kumar, Jagath Jothi, Vivek Gupta, Bimal Lakra,
Prabakaran, Jagan Senthil, Adam Sinclair, Venkatesh, Raja, Birender
Lakra, Sandeep Singh, Dilawar Hussain (Pakistan) and Juan Pablo Escarre
(Spain). Coach: Harender Singh.
Two England cricket captains have had huge influences on Andrew Strauss’s meteoric rise. Both, however, did so inadvertently.
Indeed, had it not been for the one’s bad knee and the another’s bad call, Strauss, man of the match in the first Test win over South Africa recently, might conceivably not yet have played a single Test for England.
As it is, the 27-year-old has played 10 and England have won the first eight of them to put together the most successful winning run in their 127-year Test history, totalling 830 matches.
Michael Vaughan’s contribution to the Strauss fairytale came just before the first Test against New Zealand in May last year when the current England skipper collapsed in the nets. A hospital scan on his right knee confirmed him out of the match.
The uncapped Strauss was not in the 13-man squad but was called up as cover. On day two at Lord’s, preferred to Paul Collingwood and batting in front of his home crowd, he made 112 to become the first English batsman there for 35 years to reach three figures in his maiden Test innings.
On day five, the Middlesex left-hander looked set to become the first Englishman and the third man in history to score two centuries in his opening match.
Vaughan’s predecessor Nasser Hussain, however, called him for a non-existent run and ran him out for 83 before hanging his head in horror.
Hussain made some amends with an unbeaten century of his own to win the game, his 96th Test. But within days, his mind concentrated by Strauss’s misfortune, he had decided to retire to make way for his younger rival.
Unsure if there would be room in the England side for Strauss despite his fine debut, Hussain said: "I don’t really want to go in the middle of the series, I want to see it out and beat the New Zealanders but I don’t want to see a young lad who got 200 in a game left out for me."
Every side Strauss has come across have
been greeted with a century. He averages around 60 in Tests, having made
four hundreds and four fifties in his opening 19 innings. He completed
1,000 runs in only his 10th Test during the third match against South
Africa earlier this week. Not bad for a skipper’s stand-in. —
Maria Sharapova knows how to win hearts in more ways than one. This time she did it not by dint of her superb tennis and smashing looks, but by her generosity and compassion. On her first visit to Thailand to play an exhibition match against Venus Williams, reigning Wimbledon champion Sharapova donated $ 10,000 for victims of the tsunami tragedy. Her cheque was personally accepted by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a sign of the Russian teen sensation’s immense global popularity.
"Life is unpredictable," she said, "We have to live every second not knowing what is going to happen. However, life must go on and we have to look forward to good things." Her prompt gesture and comforting words were widely appreciated in the Thai kingdom.
According to Suwat Liptapunlop, president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand, Sharapova had come not only to show her tennis talent but to help regain the reputation of local tourism in the wake of the catastrophe.
During the match, Sharapova wore a black ribbon on her white uniform in memory of the dead. Despite all the cataclysmic events happening around her, she managed to concentrate on her game and outplayed Venus in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.
Going by her good form, Sharapova is the hot favourite for the upcoming Australian Open. It goes without saying that the people of Thailand — and of countless other countries — would be cheering this great ambassador for the sport.
One dream year has wiped out the memories of several bad ones for British runner Kelly Holmes. Dogged by injuries in the past, the 34-year-old Holmes got it all right in 2004 as she became the first Briton for 84 years to clinch an Olympic golden double in athletics, winning the 800 metres and 1,500 metres races. Several multi-million pound endorsement deals followed.
top: Maria Sharapova made many friends in the tsunami-hit Thailand with her empathy; double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes was made a Dame for her
outstanding performance in 2004. — Reuters photo
Quite deservedly, she was voted UK’s sports personality of the year by the BBC. As if all this was not enough, she was made a Dame on New Year’s Eve. "I am as happy as I could ever be," she said after being honoured by the Queen.
The year punctually came to an end that night, but Holmes must have wished it hadn’t.
The Indian hockey team got a backdoor entry into the elite Champions Trophy tournament but failed disastrously to make the most of this opportunity.
Out of the six matches played, they could win only one. That speaks volumes of the weakness of the team in all departments of the game. Even the Punjab (India) team, who routed Pakistan Punjab 3-0 in the Indo-Pak Punjab Games, would have done far better than the Indian team in the Lahore competition.
It is good to give exposure to youngsters but is absurd to use them as cannon fodder. This is what happened to the team led by Dilip Tirkey. The captain should have impressed upon the IHF bosses to include a few senior players in the team, like Dhanraj Pillay, Gagan Ajit Singh, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Deepak Thakur and others.
Tirkey’s big talk of finishing in the top three came to naught in Lahore as his boys were beaten twice by Pakistan. The strategy of Gerhard Rach, the Indian coach, cost India dear in Athens as well as Lahore.
The IHF owes an explanation to the nation for India’s pathetic performance. Frequent chopping and changing is not in the interest of Indian hockey.
Tarsem S. Bumrah
Our hockey officials should stop taking refuge in lame excuses and admit that our team has been outplayed not only by major teams but also by the minor ones. The latest reversal took place when the visiting French team won the two-match series against India. They outplayed India 3-1 in the first Test and secured a 1-1 draw in the second Test.
The irony is that though the visitors, ranked No. 18, beat India, ranked 13 places above them, Jagbir Singh felt that our team’s show was ‘‘not bad’’.