Bhubaneswar: After two successful seasons, Hockey India League (HIL) is back with a clash between hosts Kalinga Lancers and debutant Ranchi Rays clash at the Kalinga Stadium today.
After finishing at the bottom of the table in their debut season, Kalinga Lancers will be desperate to prove their detractors wrong with a much-improved performance this year.
The Ranchi Rays, co-owned by Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni,on the other hand, will be making its debut in HIL this year and will be focussed on maintaining the good work of the previous Ranchi franchise, Ranchi Rhinos, who won the 2012 HIL.
The Lancers will definitely start as favourites on their home turf. Led by Vikramkanth, the Lancers have a young team which has the potential to spring a surprise.
In Gurjinder Singh and Argentine Gonzalo Peillat, the Lancers boast of a strong drag flick department, while experienced Australian goalie Andrew Charter and India's Harjot Singh will man their citadel. There isn't much experience in Lancers forwardline and midfield.
The Rays, on the other hand, are a new outfit which has tried to retain the core base of players that used to be a part of the Ranchi Rhinos team. Coached by the experienced Harendra Singh, the Rays have tough task at hand — the task of living up to the reputation of the previous Ranchi franchise.
In Spain's Francisco Cortes, the Rays have reliable person in front of the goal, while the defence will be under the watchful eyes of Birendra Lakra and South Africa's Justin Reid Ross.
With the likes of Englishmen Ashley Jackson, Barry Middleton, Germany's Moritz Furst and India's Manpreet Singh, the Rays boats of a strong midfield while Australian Trent Mitton, Mandeep Singh and Kiwi Nick Wilson will be in charge of the forwardline.