DABANG Mumbai, who had never made it to the semi-finals of the previous four editions of Hockey India League, are hoping that season 5 will turn out better as they play their five home games at a stretch here from Saturday till the end of the month.
Mumbai open their campaign against two-time champions Ranchi Rays and then clash with UP Wizards (Jan 24), defending champions Punjab Warriors (Jan 27), 2014 champions Delhi Wave Riders (Jan 30) before concluding their home leg against last year’s losing finalists Kalinga Lancers (Jan 31).
The home side - coached by four-time Olympian Jay Stacy of Australia - has the right mixture of experience and youth, both in attack and defence. The presence of five players - who were all part of the Indian World Junior Cup winning squad will be of interest as national coach Roelant Oltmans has said he will be watching the juniors’ performance in HIL with a keen eye.
“We deliberately gave some pitch time to the five boys last year and since then they have significantly improved and got exposed to higher levels of hockey, lots of international games and training, and of course success in the Junior World Cup in Lucknow,” said head coach Stacy.
The five are goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, drag-flick penalty corner exponent Harmanpreet Singh, midfielders Nilakanta Sharma and Manpreet Singh and forward Gurjant Singh.“I am rally pleased that they are going to be able to impact matches this year.
I'm pleased with their confidence and the form they are showing. I was in Lucknow to watch the Australian team and I was also watching the Indian team perform. Those boys, in particular, performed very well. I am very happy with the condition that they are in,” Stacy added.
German striker Florian Fuchs, of six foreign nationalities represented in the squad, will lead the team. The squad has David Harte and Pathak to guard the goal, while Harmanpreet, Jeremy Hayward, Gurmail Singh would form the defensive wall.
There have been three new additions in Belgium defender Emmanuel Stockbroekx and the Dutch duo -- Sander De Wijn and Robert Kemperman.Nilakanta Sharma, Danish Mujtaba, Vikas Sharma, Tyron Pereira, Manpreet and Vikas Sharma will form the midfield while Fuchs, Roshan Minz, Affan Yousuf, Gurjant Singh, John Bjorkman would lead the attack.