New Delhi: The tournament that has the world hockey fraternity's eyes fixed on India is two days away. Hockey India has brought the world's best under the same umbrella with its new franchise-based tournament - the Hockey India League (HIL).
A total of 120 players from India and across the world will come out to play for five franchises - who bought them in the players' auction held in December 2012 - as the tournament kicks off on Monday with the opening game to be played between Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Even though players have camped up for just over a week for their respective franchises, the camaraderie and coordination was there for everyone to see as Punjab and Delhi practised their drills at the National Stadium.
IBNLive.com talked to some of these players, from the sensational Sardar Singh to Australia's Champions Trophy golden goal-scorer Kieron Govers, and each one of them echoed the same sentiment - that this tournament is going to produce the most scintillating hockey one could ever see.
Kieron Govers (Australia and Jaypee Punjab Warriors)
Hockey is going to be amazing in this tournament. We've been very warmly welcomed up there in Jalandhar and here in Gujarat. India is a great place to play hockey and this is a great platform where you get to see the best of the best. It's a bit cold up there in Jalandhar but very pleasant here in Delhi. Plans are in place and I'm looking forward to the first game on Monday.
Sardar Singh (India and Delhi Waveriders)
HIL will not only provide financial security to the players but also popularise hockey in the country, which is an equally important motivation for the players. This is going to be very closely fought tournament. No side can take the other lightly. We need to cut down on our mistakes. I think that's what going to decide the winner.
Gurmail Singh (India and Jaypee Punjab Warriors)
This is a big opportunity for me. I am just 19 and this tournament plus the Junior World Cup later this year is my main focus. It was a great learning experience at the Champions Trophy. Sad to lose out on a bronze [against Pakistan] but I am sure there will be lots more opportunities in future. But HIL is surely going to prove the launchpad young players like me look forward to.
Yuvraj Walmiki (India and Delhi Waveriders)
We have been very well taken care of, which is allowing the team to gel as a unit and take shape before the first match on Monday. I have no injury concerns. Missing out on the Olympics is now behind me. I have returned to the Indian team and hope to learn more by being part of the Hockey Indian League.
Shivendra (India and Jaypee Punjab Warriors)
Jaypee [Group] has been superb in its support for hockey. Whatever we have asked for has been provided, not just world-class lodging but each and every facility has been top notch. That's what only corporate sector can do. This will help us perform to the best of our abilities in the tournament. There are a lot of foreigners in the team, but I and Sunil are two of the three Indian strikers. It should be very exciting and help me get back into the Indian team.
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