The fourth edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) is unique in more than one sense - for it throws a lot of different challenges for players, franchises as well as the organisers.
At the end of a three-year contractual period, a fresh auction was held, which saw many players switching bases, including the likes of Sardar Singh moving from Delhi Waveriders to the Punjab Warriors and Moritz Fuerste returning from a one year absence, but not for Ranchi. He will be playing for the Kalinga Lancers as the costliest player of the season.
Bidding war for the German wizard saw any player breaching the $100,000 barrier for the first time in the HIL.
On the competitive front, the league is expected to be fought on a knife's edge as players look to make the most of the best competitive field before the Olympics later in August. Adding to that will be the beefed up cash awards for teams and players, totaling up to a whopping Rs. 5.7 crore for the season.
On the organisation front, the league has a new title sponsor after the Hero Group chose not to renew its contract. Hockey India's search for a replacement ended with Coal India Ltd. (CIL) for the next three editions. CIL will invest in excess of Rs. 14 crore for the 2016 Season.
To raise the interest level in the HIL and hockey in general in India, the tournament committee has introduced an innovative rule, wherein one field goal will count as two. While that has become the talking point ahead of the season, it remains to be seen what degree of success the experiment achieves.
But all of the above is more a gist of what Season 4 encompasses. Zooming in on it provides details that have everything you want to know about the 37-day hockey festivities.
Take a look:
1. Teams: Ranchi Rays, Punjab Warriors, Delhi Waveriders, Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Dabgan Mumbai, Kalinga Lancers
2. Defending Champions: Ranchi Rays
3. Captains: Ashley Jackson (Ranchi Rays), Sardar Singh (Punjab Warriors), Simon Child (Delhi Waveriders), VR Raghunath (UP Wizards), Nikkin Thimmaiah (DabangMumbai), Moritz Fuerste (Kalinga Lancers).
4. Most Costly Player: Moritz Fuerste ($105,000)
5. Most Costly Indian Player: Akashdeep Singh ($84000)
6. Squad Strength: 20 players each (12 Indians, 8 foreigners)
7. Tournament Dates: Jan 18 to Feb 21
8. Tournament Venues: Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Ranchi, Mumbai, Delhi
9. Total No. of Matches: 34
10. Live Broadcast: English (Start Sports 2 and Start Sports HD 2), Hindi (Star Sports 3 and Start Sports HD 3)
11. Timings: One league match at 1800 IST on all playing days during the round-robin stage.
12. Opening Match: Kalinga Lancers vs Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Bhubaneshwar
13. Format: Teams finishing in the top four after round-robin league to play the semi-finals
14. Points System: Win - 5 points; draw - 2 points; loss with goal difference of two or less goals - 1 point; loss with goal difference of three or more goals -0 points
15. Prize Money: Total Rs 5.70 crore (Winners Rs 2.5 crore, Runners-up Rs 1.75 crore, third-place Rs. 75 lakh, Player of the Tournament Rs 50 lakh, Best Under21 Player Rs. 20 lakh, Highest Goal-Scorer Rs 20 lakh, Player of the Match Rs 50,000, Goal of the Match Rs 50,000)
16. New Rule: Every field goal counts as two goals. To be precise, for every field goal and goal off a penalty stroke resulting from a penalty corner where agoal being scored is prevented by a deliberate foul, it will be counted as 2 goals
17. Indian senior team's coach Roelant Oltmans not coaching UP Wizards to avoid conflict of interest
18. Complete Squads