New Delhi: Can Hockey India League (HIL) change the lifestyle of hockey players similar to cricketers who found an El Dorado in the Indian Premier League?
Not yet -- the money involved in the HIL, beginning Monday, is nowhere near the mindboggling figures of the IPL, still it is good enough to motivate the Indian hockey players to improve their stick work. The players, who are paid a pittance for donning the national colours, were traded in big-time dollars at the auction last month.
The foreign players, too, would be paid handsomely for the month-long league -- may be a little more than what they earn playing professional leagues worldwide.
India captain Sardar Singh, who will be leading the Delhi Waveriders in the tournament, was the star player at the auction where he came under the hammer for $78,000. The overseas players to attract huge money were Australia's Jamie Dwyer ($60,000 -- Jaypee Punjab Warriors), German Mortiz Fuertse ($75,500 -- Ranchi Rhinos) and Dutch legend Teun de Nooijer ($66,000 -- Uttar Pradesh Wizards).
"It is great to see the players getting good money. I am expecting the level in HIL to be much higher than the leagues I have played in. For the Indian players, it is just the kind of competition that could raise their level of play at the international level," star striker Dwyer told IANS.
Some of the top coaches in the business are also part of the event. Australia's Ric Charlesworth is the head coach of Mumbai Magicians while his compatriot Barry Dancer is associated with the Punjab Warriors.
Organisationally, Hockey India (HI) wanted to start the league with six teams but failed to find a buyer for the city of Bangalore. The apex body for the sport in the country, however, doesn't see the lack of a sixth team as a dampener.
The success of the league will chiefly depend a lot on the spectator interest, it contends.
The HIL, like IPL did to its rebel league Indian Cricket League (ICL), has given little hope for the World Series Hockey (WSH), floated by the rival Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), to survive beyond the inaugural edition after it failed to catch the imagination of the hockey fans.