The Hero Hockey India League (HIL) has almost reached the halfway stage and the league seems to be making an impact in more ways than one.

The biggest beneficiaries of the HIL have been the young players, who have recently made it to the Indian team, or are waiting in the wings. Rubbing shoulders with world and Olympic champions was a dream-come-true for the youngsters. It allowed them to spend valuable time with the elite players and learn from the experienced professionals’ work ethic.

“The presence of 10 foreign players, who have achieved good results at the top level, changes the way the team operates: be it the practice sessions, or the approach towards a match, or the performance on the pitch,” said Ajay Kumar Bansal, the coach of Delhi Waveriders, which leads the table with 22 points.

“The other day, after we won 6-4 against Mumbai Magicians, our goalkeeper German Nicolas Jacobi came to me and said, ‘Coach, I did not play well today.’ This kind of honesty is infectious and spreads to other players,” Bansal said.

Accomplished midfielder and Waveriders captain Sardar Singh shared how the Indian players learn from the international stars to perform under pressure. “They guide us on how to play from a particular point on the field and move ahead. We learn how to adapt when the team is losing or winning. These things make a difference,” he said.

Ranjit Singh of Jaypee Punjab Warriors has got more than he had hoped for. “I had a dream of watching Jamie Dwyer play. I am lucky that I am playing along with him. It is a great experience to see him prepare for a match and lead the team,” said 20-year-old Ranjit.

“I was amazed to see Mark Knowles. He does not get demoralised even after committing a mistake, and performs even better,” said Ranjit.

Popular at venues

There are a few other positives too. The HIL has witnessed decent turnouts at most venues while Ranchi has seen virtually packed houses.

The telecaster of the event, ESPN Star Sports, was enthusiastic that 1.46 crore viewers watched the HIL in its first week. ESS claimed that the figure was far bigger than the viewership of several other important events.

The replacements (for Pakistan players):

Waveriders: Andrew Hayward and Dean Couzins (NZ); Warriors: Russel Ford (Aus); Magicians: Steven Edwards (NZ), Jason Wilson, Timothy Deavin and Glenn Simpson (Aus); Rhinos: Bosco Perez-Pla (Esp).

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