Sunday, March 11, 2012

Do you follow World Series Hockey ??


Many of us nurse a feeling that the Indian team is not serious of the losses that it suffered in England and Down under.  Soon IPL 5 would be on and people will be busy supporting Pune Warriors, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Rajastan Royals, Kolkatta Knight Raiders and……………..  At  Chennai, are you interested in going to Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium for seeing the action and do you know of :   Bhopal Badshahs, Chandigarh Comets, Chennai Cheetahs, Delhi Wizards, Karnataka Lions, Mumbai Marines, Pune Strykers, Sher-E-Punjab           ….
Chennai Cheetahs

Great, if you could still remember Chennai Veerans or the Premier Hockey League, which was a precursor to the modern day Indian Premier League in India.  Sad, Hockey was never patronized the way Cricket was and chances are that you may not remember of Chennai Veerans and the like teams – and worse if you have not heard of the teams listed above – they are the ones participating in the present WSH.  WSH what ?    WSH has set international standard goalposts at every tournament venue. These goalposts are the same ones that will be used in the London Olympics in 2012, and are manufactured by Harrod UK, who are the official suppliers to the event.  The specialty of these goalposts is that the back post is outside the net, thus not allowing balls to rebound at pace from within the goal, and leaving no doubt in decisions made by umpires on shots on goal that enter the goal.

Chennai Veerans alongside teams like Sher-e-jalandhar,  Orissa Steelers,  Bangalore Lions, Maratha Warriors, played in the Indian Premier Hockey League which is now defunct. There were seven teams in the PHL. The competition was held every year from 2005 till 2008.  Initiated by Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) with active support from sports channel ESPN India, PHL  never took off the way they wanted it to be famous.

World Series Hockey (WSH) is an initiative of Indian Hockey Federation with the objective to reinvigorate hockey in India and to make it a ‘sport of choice’ for youngsters in the country. It was to be played in India among eight franchisee-based teams between 17 December 2011 to 22 January 2012, but later was postponed to 29 February 2012 owing to Olympic qualifiers. The entire event will take place on ‘home and away’ basis culminating into multi header Playoffs. Each team has 25 registered players out of which 18 can play. All the matches will be of 70 minutes each but instead of two halves, the games will have four quarters of 17-and-a-half minutes each to give more rest to players during a game and also provide opportunities to sponsors and advertisers. There will be green and yellow cards for on-field offences, video umpires in all games, and one-on-one shoot-outs in semifinals and final in case the regulation and extra time fails to produce a result.  It is a multi city franchise-based league with the players allocated to the teams based on the internationally accepted and practiced draft system.  The tournament sponsor is Bridgestone and the trophy comprises a large cup with two hockey sticks on either sides.  The matches are lively and fiercely fought.
Dhanraj Pillai, Prabjot Singh, Imran Warsi & Jaswinder Singh

There are 8 teams and each team will play the other twice; home and away and thus will play 14 league matches; 7 home and 7 away. The League Phase will consist of 56 matches.  The 4 Teams with the best record after the League Phase will qualify for the Playoffs. In the Semis, the No.1 team will play the No. 4 team, and the No. 2 team will play the No. 3 team. Each of these matches will be a one match knockout and will be played at the home of the higher positioned team i.e. the team which earns a higher position in the League Phase will benefit from getting to play a Home match. The winners of each Playoff Semis qualifies for the Final. The Final will be played between the winners of each of the Semis. Final will be played at the Home venue of the team with the higher position. The team which wins the Final will be declared the Champions.

There is a fair sprinkling of foreign players.  The Captains of the franchisee teams are :    Adrian D'Souza (IND),  Arjun Halappa (IND),  Prabhjot Singh (IND),   Sameer Dad (IND),.  Brent Livermore (AUS),  Rajpal Singh (IND),  Rehan Butt (PAK),  Ken Pereira (CAN).  There are some high profile coaches too and the coaches are :  Andrew Meredith (GER),  Gundeep Singh (IND),  Harendra Singh (IND),  Jude Felix (IND),  Jose Brasa (ESP),  Rajinder Singh (IND),  Roelant Oltmans (NED),  Vasudevan Bhaskaran (IND)

Now if you are impressed reading this – here is the flip side.  The IHF is not recognised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) as the governing body for the sport in India. The IHF has not been recognised by the FIH since 2000. Instead the FIH recognises Hockey India as the sole national governing body for hockey in India. It remains an unsanctioned event as per the FIH Statutes and Bye-Laws. Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has said that any player who participates in the WSH will be banned from domestic competitions. This declaration hinders the plans of several Pakistan hockey stars, including former captain Rehan Butt.  FIH president Leandro Negre served a direct warning to players looking to participate in the WSH that they will be suspended from international matches. The entire Indian squad signed a contract to play in the league but Negre made it clear that any Indian player who participates will be banned from the Olympic qualifiers and all FIH tournaments.  18 players of the Indian team that qualified for the London Olympics decided to skip the league after a team meeting.

So there is politics everywhere

Regards – S. Sampathkumar. 

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