Foreign players star attractions in HIL

New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Be it Kalinga Lancers’ German playmaker Moritz Furste or Ranchi Rays’ captain Ashley Jackson, foreign players have been the biggest attraction for the franchises in the Hockey India League (HIL) and this year’s edition, starting from January 18, will be no different.

The 4th edition of the Coal India HIL will see an inflow of international talents for the 34-day long hockey extravaganza. While some big players like Jamie Dwyer and Furste have changed their sides, the likes of Tobias Hauke and Florian Fuchs will make their debut this year.

One of the biggest buys of the season made by Lancers is German stalwart Fürste, who was bagged for $105,000. Fürste was named as the Euro Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player in the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 seasons.

At the European Championship 2011 he got the award as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The two-time Olympic champion and 2012 FIH player of the year, one of the best midfielders in the world, will be looking to put his stamp on the tournament in the new franchise.

The 31-year-old captained now-defunct Ranchi Rhinos to HIL glory in the inaugural edition and the Bhubaneswar based franchise is expecting a similar performance from the Hamburger.

Furste’s compatriot and fellow midfielder Hauke, who was in the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympic gold medal winning teams, will be a big addition to the arsenal of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards.

One of the best defensive midfielders of his generation, the 28-year-old has been nominated for the 2015 FIH Player of the Year and also won the prestigious award in 2013.

Lucknow based Warriors will hope that Hauke along with this year’s Australian recruit Jamie Dwyer, a five-time World Player of the Year, will help them land them their first HIL title. Apart from the duo, Australian attacking midfielder Eddie Ockenden, who was with Wizards in the first three editions. The deep-playing trio will form a ferocious line behind the frontmen.

Another German who will be a major crowd puller will be Fuchs. The 24-year-old German striker was awarded the FIH Young Player of the Year in 2012. He has been a part of the 2012 Olympic winning German team and Champions Trophy gold medallist at Bhubaneshwar in 2014. He is one of the most lethal strikers in the world and was picked up by Dabang Mumbai for $96,000.

The HIL player auctions saw a lot of international midfielders being picked up by the franchises. The Australians along with the Germans were highly in demand. Seasoned Australian Simon Orchard who was bagged by the Jaypee Punjab Warriors for $71,000 will be a major boost for the team.

Orchard will be playing alongside the Indian captain Sardar Singh, who has moved from Delhi Waveriders, and it will be two world class acts on display. The 29-year-old Orchard has won several medals with them including gold at the 2009 Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy, gold at the 2010 Men’s Hockey World Cup and gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Orchard, who played for Wariors in the first three editions, will hope to win the title this time.

England’s Jackson is a creative treat and the Ranchi Rays made the right decision by retaining the attacking midfielder and drag-flicker for a sum of $95,000.

Jackson made his debut in 2007 for the England at the age of 19. He was named FIH Young Player of the Year 2009 and is the first English player to receive this accolade.

Skipper Jackson led from the front and scored 12 goals to help the Rays clinch the 2015 HIL title. Out of the 12 goals, 11 came from penalty corner conversions, leading him to become the top-scorer of 2015 and also the Player of the Tournament.

The 28-year-old will be at the forefront of the attack of the Ranchi Rays and will be looking to defend their title once again.

Apart from Jackson, Rays have also retained his compatriot Barry Middleton for $67,000. Rays will depnd on the veteran forward, with more than 350 international caps, and Jackson in their bid to retain the title.

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