New Delhi: Defending champions Ranchi Rays will be hoping to put a repeat performance to retain their title during fourth edition of the Hockey India League to be held across six different venues of country from January 18 to February 21.
The Ranchi Rays will play their first match against last year runner's up Jaypee Punjab Warriors in a re-match of previous edition's final, 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.
Ranchi Rays' 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 USD 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 England's Barry Middleton, who has the knack of being at the right place at the right time and Australian defender Fergus Kavanagh who 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 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 and 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 USD 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.
Speaking about the team combination, soach 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."