Defending HIL champs Ranchi Rhinos wary of Delhi Waveriders

Kolkata, Jan 19: Admitting that the tag of defending champion will bring pressure, inaugural Hockey India League winners Ranchi Rhinos’ head coach Gregg Clark Sunday picked out runners up Delhi Waveriders as the team to watch out for.

“All the teams are very well balanced but I feel Delhi, whom we defeated in the final to lift the crown, once again will be the team to watch out for. They are a strong side with good mix of players and we need to be on our guard against them,” Clark told IANS during a team event here.

“There is always pressure to repeat your success but if you’re a true champion it will spur you on and I think it will bring out the best in us,” said the coach.

The Ranchi-based team is in Kolkata to play an exhibition match to commemorate the first death anniversary of legendary hockey player and Olympian Leslie Claudius.

Talking about HIL, which starts Jan 25 at Mohali, Clark said his team will bank heavily on the experience of skipper and German superstar Moritz Furste.

“While our team is full of superstars, Moritz has been a pillar of strength for us. He leads by example and, at the same time, gets the best out of the team. He is the man to go for when the chips are down,” said Clark.

The coach also pointed out medio Manpreet Singh and forward Mandeep Singh as the vital cogs in the team’s scheme of things.

“While we have abundance of talent, our biggest strength is the players’ ability to deliver at the big stage. In the last edition, we had one player or the other coming to the party in every match and we hope to repeat the same,” he said.

Admitting that getting the team to gel during the inaugural edition was an “issue”, the South African, however, said the familiarity of the team with the local conditions as well as among the players themselves was a big plus.

“Familiarity of last year surely will be big plus for us. When we came here we didn’t know what to expect but then this time a good bonding has developed between the team members, including the domestic players.

“Obviously, during the inaugural edition getting the team to gel in the initial phases was an issue. But then the international players, despite being superstars, mixed really well with the local and budding players and this year we really have a cohesive unit,” added Clark.

The defending champions will be in action Jan 26 when they take on Uttar Pradesh Wizards at home.

IANS