THE NEW SCORING RULES in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) starting on Monday, drew mixed reactions on Thursday on whether they will make the game more tactical or will force the play to be more defensive.
The most important rule change is that a field goal will be counted as two to encourage more skilful and tactical hockey. Also, to curb rough tackles, two goals will be awarded for every goal scored from a penalty stroke resulting from a penalty corner where a goal being scored is prevented by a deliberate foul.
But for the rest -- penalty corners, strokes and shoot-outs -- the usual one goal will be awarded for conversions. The new goal-scoring system has been approved by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Competitions and Rules Committee.
Ranchi Rays captain Ashley Jackson felt that the rules are exciting but insisted that the roles of drag-flickers will not change much.
"It will be interesting to see how the first week of the competition pans out and then only we can say on the impact of these rules on the games. In one way, teams can be very aggressive. But, depending on the situations, teams can put more emphasis on the defensive structure. Or may be both of these points can happen at the same time," the Englishman, an attacking midfielder and set-piece expert, pointed out at the trophy unveiling ceremony here.
"So I am excited and eager to see how the rules impact the games. The rules will certainly impact the results of the matches and the scorelines," Jackson, who has played for Ranchi based teams from the first edition, added.
The 28-year-old, however, said that drag-flick specialists like him may also relish the opportunity because the chances of a team earning penalty corners will go up.
"The forwards will enjoy playing with the new rules in play but in that process they may end up earning more number of penalty corners and and the drag-flickers can't afford to miss out on them as always. I can only surely say that the numbers of goals will rise," Jackson, who converted 11 penalty corners last year and was awarded player of the tournament, said.
Uttar Pradesh Wizards captain V.R. Raghunath said that penalty corner exponents will feel less pressure this time around, thanks to the new rules.
"It's a big challenge for the forwards and an opportunity for the forwards to score more goals and show their skills. There will be less pressure on drag-flickers and more pressure on forwards," Raghunath said.
"The first week of the season is going to play a critical role in deciding the way forward for all the teams. Our aim would be to score as many points as we can and the rule changes only add to the excitement of the league."
Jaypee Punjab Warriors captain Sardar Singh, who will turn out for the Chandigarh franchise for the first time, said the rules are the same for every team and no side will be at an advantage because of them.
"The rule is same for all. It is an interesting thought and all teams will try to score more field goals this year," he said.
Kalinga Lancers captain Moritz Furste, who captained the now defunct Ranchi Rhynos to the title in 2013, said he was eagerly looking forward to the 2016 edition after missing out on the 2015 edition due to injury.
"I missed the last season and hence I was very keen to be a part of this year's Coal India Hockey India League. This is a perfect beginning to the Olympic year as we get to play against the best players and an amazing crowd which adds to our excitement and performance," the 2012 FIH Player of the Year said.