New Delhi: For dragflick specialist VR Raghunath, the upcoming Hockey India League (HIL) provides him with an opportunity to pick up a few nuances of the game from legendary Dutchman Teun De Nooijer when the two play together for the Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
Raghunath grabbed eyeballs when he fetched a whopping $76,000 at the inaugural HIL players' auctions last month, becoming one of the most expensive buys of the event to be held from January 14 to February 10.
"His [De Nooijer] presence matters a lot. The amount of experience he is bringing to the league is great. He can control the team with his experiece and it's good to be playing alongside him," Raghunath said in an interview.
"I want to learn how he manages himself...such a long hockey career. I want to know about his fitness, his style of play among others. There are many things you can learn from him. It's good to share the dug out with him. I am happy that he is part of our team," added the 24-year-old Bangalorean.
Nooijer, three-time FIH World Player of the Year, has been signed as one of the brand ambassadors for the HIL along with three-time Olympic medalist Jamie Dwyer of Australia and India skipper Sardar Singh. De Nooijer, 36, is the highest capped player in the world who represented The Netherlands in 453 international matches.
Raghunath admitted that he was rewarded for his consistent performance throughout the year, especially in the Asian Champions Trophy.
"I was expecting a good price but there was a fight between Delhi and UP franchises. The intense bidding got me the deal. I am 100 per cent satified with the price. My consistent performance has been rewarded and also I am a current India player," he said.
Raghunath, who is central to India's defence after the axing of Sandeep Singh, backed the former skipper to make a comeback into the national side through HIL.
"He (Sandeep) can make a comeback in the team anytime. He is an experienced guy, very mature. HIL is an opportunity for him to prove that he is fit. He is still the best," he said.
Raghunath also said that the national selectors should continue with the tried and tested defense combination of Sandeep, Rupinder Pal Singh and himself.
"Myself, Sandeep and Rupinder are doing a good job. We should continue with the main combination. A drag-flicker becomes mature with the amount of experience he gains.
Maturity is very important in drag-flicking. We are doing a good job as a combination," he said.
Talking about his team's chances in the HIL, Raghunath said, "All the teams are equally strong. Only after few matches we can tell which team is the best. Our aim is to perform well.
"The foreign players of our team have arrived. We are trying to understand each other well. We will try to put up a good show in the league," he added.
Raghunath said the HIL is a new beginning for Indian hockey and it will provide a much-needed financial impetus to the players. "Hockey India has done a great job by starting the league. The boys will benefit from it. Foreign coaches and foreign players will be there so you can learn a lot from them."
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