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Standing-out among world class talent wouldn't be the only challenge for HIL players. Daksh Panwar & Mihir Vasavda say that the ability to handle hectic travel and media scrutiny will decide who survives this tough-on-body IPL-inspired event.
After a dazzling performance in a practice game during which he set up an exquisite goal, the bald and bearded Aussie mid-fielder, Rob Hammond, again grabbed attention during the cool-down session. Only this time not on account of his fierce looks or slick stick-work, but his impromptu batting.
As team-mate Dharamvir Singh scooped a ball at him, Hammond changed his front-on hockey stance to sideways one and dispatched the half-volley back over the head of the 'bowler'. Next one met the full face of the bat (stick) followed by a flick off the hip to square leg where his captain Jamie Dwyer was sitting.
It ended as abruptly as it had started unexpectedly, but two days before the start of the IPL-inspired Hockey India League (HIL), as the DJ did 'sound-check' on the side, that brief session of cricket on the National Stadium astro turf was maybe ironic but not really incongruous.
For looking to regain a foothold in the cricket-mad country, Indian hockey's latest and most ambitious initiative is modelled almost completely on IPL. Thirty-four matches, 28 days, five franchises and one objective: to make a dent in mass consciousness.
Optimism is running high. "There is no other league like the HIL in world hockey," says India coach Michael Nobbs. "The money involved, the professionalism, there are no parallels at this moment. All international players who play hockey want to be part of this," he adds.
New Zealand forward Simon Child, who is part of the Delhi Waveriders team, also feels that HIL can do for hockey what IPL did for cricket. "IPL has shown the way, now the HIL is trying to professionalise hockey," Child insists.