DELHI WAVERIDERS will hope that a new home at the Shivaji Hockey Stadium in New Delhi and a new squad will help them regain the title of Coal India Hockey India League which starts January 18.
Waveriders played their home matches at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in the past three editions. But this year, the 7,000-seater Shivaji stadium, a historic venue that is a witness to India's hockey growth and fall in the past, will host all of the five home matches of Waveriders.
Apart from the new home ground, Waveriders also pulled off a surprise in not retaining midfield talisman Sardar Singh, who captained them to runners-up finish in 2013, champions in 2014 and bronze medal last year.
Sardar was the face of the franchise and it was surprising that they left the 29-year-old to be part of the auction, where the India captain was picked by Jaypee Punjab Warriors for $58,000.
This year the franchise has made some crucial buys. The Indian players who will be on display for Waveriders are young and full of promise.
The major Indian retentions which have been made by the Delhi team include forward Yuvraj Walmiki. Yuvraj, who spent some time last year away from the sport will be looking forward to make Coal India HIL 2016 his stepping stone to an entry back into the Indian national team.
The forward line also features the 22-year-old Indian international Talwinder Singh who will look forward to continue with his good form. Talwinder will be accompanied by Mandeep Singh, who was acquired for $70,000 and can be an interesting performer.
Star defender Rupinder Pal Singh fetched a price of $68,000 from the franchise and is one of the key players who has been with the side since the first edition. Rupinder will have the support of Vickram Kanth, who will look to impress the national selectors for a return.
Another young star who will be interesting to watch is Indian junior team captain Harjeet Singh. Harjeet has shown a lot of promise as a central midfielder in India's Under-21 side and his performance in the HIL will be a crucial denominator of his pedigree.
The overseas players in the form of New Zealander Simon Child who was the highest scorer from Delhi in the tournament with four goals will be looking to repeat a similar performance with the franchise.
Waveriders retained New Zealand frontman Simon Orchard, his compatriot and defender Steven Edwards and Australian defender/midfielder Tristian White.
The other key foreign players are Canadian Mark Pearson, Austrian Benjamin Stanzl, Iain Lewers from England and the South African duo of Austin Smith and Justin Reid-Ross. Smith and Reied-Ross were part of Ranchi based teams from the first edition and they will be crucial in midfield and defence.
The addition of New Zealand goalkeeper Devon Manchester will give an added spark to the team. He was purchased for $27,000 against a base price of $15,000 and India's Harjot Singh will be his competitor for a place in the team. German Nicolas Jacobi, who was with the side from the first edition, will turn out for Warriors and the experienced custodian's absence has made way for youngsters like Manchester and Harjot.
“We did put up a good show with a podium position finish in the last edition of the Hockey India League but I believe with each new season we should set different expectations," Waveriders head coach Cedric D’Souza said in a release.
"The Indians and overseas players are jelling together pretty well and it will really help the team to play as one unit or dictate the terms in any match.”
Waveriders will play their first match against Warriors in Chandigarh on January 20.