New Delhi: Ranchi Rays, the defending champions of the 3rd edition of the Hockey India League, will be hopeful of putting a similar show at the 4th edition of the Coal India Hockey India League the premier League for hockey in the world today. The six team annual franchise based hockey league, the flagship event of Hockey India - the apex body governing the sport in the country and sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is scheduled to be played across six venues in India from 18th January - 21st February 2016.
The Ranchi Rays will play their first match against last year runner’s up Jaypee Punjab Warriors in a rematch of the finals which will test their mantle once again. The Ranchi Rays have tried to maintain the combinations that worked out beautifully for them in the last edition. The team plays a defensive game and their major emphasis is again on defence. Their major retentions have in the form of their strong defensive pairing of Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh.
The other major retention for the team has been in the form of Captain Ashley Jackson who has been retained in the team for a sum of $95,000. Skipper Jackson led his team from the front and scored 12 goals to help the Rays clinch the 2015 HIL title. Out of the 12 goals, 11 came from penalty corner conversions, leading him to become the top-scorer of 2015 and also the Player of the Tournament. He will be at the forefront of the attack of the Ranchi Rays. The other foreign retentions have been in the form of Barry Middleton the English midfielder/ forward who has the knack of being at the right place at the right time and Australian defender Fergus Kavanagh will be seen accompanying the two Indians in the defensive duty.
The team has a combination of Australians, who can play different roles at the same time like midfielder/forward Flynn Ogilvie, 23 year old Daniel Beale and 25 year old Trent Mitton who can play a similar role. Timothy Deavin will add the necessary experience in the form of defender/midfielder. The goal will be guarded by Australian Tyler Lovell who will look to continue the habit of not giving away easy goals to the opponents for Ranchi Rays.
Ranchi Rays who have believed in retaining more players than buying new ones with a total spent of $656,500, has Indian talent in the form of Manpreet Singh, the young Indian midfielder who will be looking to make immense of the opportunity of playing alongside Ashley Jackson. He will be accompanied by junior team star Vikramjit Singh.
Coach Clarence Lobo said, “We have a combination which worked the last time. We have gathered players who have played together for a long time with the ability to play at various positions. We will just stick to our task and try and play a tight game.”