Kalinga Lancers to take on UP Wizards in HIL opener today

Bhubaneswar: Kalinga Lancers will take on Uttar Pradesh (UP) Wizards in the opening match of the fourth edition of Hockey India League (HIL), which gets underway at the Kalinga Stadium here on Monday.

The hosts, trained by coach Mark Hagar, are a confident lot and raring to go against UP Wizards in the inaugural match.

The two teams had spent enough time in the nets practicing for the match, sources added.

The Bhubaneswar-based franchise looks formidable with stalwarts like Lalit Upadhyay, Devindar Sunil Walimiki, defender Gurjinder Singh and the two young Australian talents — striker Aran Zalewski and goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

Drag-flick specialist Gurjinder, who has a wonderful record in converting penalty corners in HIL, is a key player for Kalinga Lancers.

The Wizards also look very promising with players like Australian Jamie Dwyer and star internationals Tobias Hauke from Germany, Gonzalo Peillat of Argentina along with acclaimed Indians like PR Sreejesh, Akashdeep Singh and skipper Raghunath.

Both Wizards and Lancers have new coaches this time. While Lancers replaced Jude Felix with Australian Mark Hager, the Wizards are being coached by Roger van Gent in place of Roelant Oltmans, who opted out of the post to avoid conflict of interest as he is also the High Performance Director of Indian hockey as well the chief coach of the national men’s team.

The 2016 HIL, which will have some changes in team combinations and scoring rules, will also have beefed up cash awards for teams and players, totaling a whopping Rs 5.7 crore.