CHENNAI: The next Hockey India League (HIL) auction may be more than six months away, but it’s already causing the teams a couple of headaches. Given a new team from Bengaluru is entering the fray, there is going to be a fresh auction, but none of the sides seem to know what will happen with respect to player retention.
Mark Hager, coach of Kalinga Lancers, the 2017 champions, echoed the same thoughts. “We don’t know what are the rules with respect to the auctions,” he said. “If Bangalore comes in as the seventh team, do we keep three Indians and foreigners each? Nobody knows.”
The rules, in its present form, state that a maximum of six (three Indians and three foreigners) can be retained, but chances of the new team agreeing to such a rule seem bleak at the moment. The former Australian international explained why. “If all teams retain three Indians, will the incoming franchise have a good Indian core? There are good overseas athletes to go around all the seven teams, but I’m not sure that’s the case with Indians,” Hager noted.
He is obviously happy to see the league grow, but is understandably sad at the prospect of losing players to other sides. “It’s sad in a way because our team is going to split up. We would like to keep most of the squad together.”
Coach of Dabang Mumbai, Jay Stacy, went further. He hoped Hockey India would revisit rules apropos player retention.
“When you’re trying to build a hockey club, and when the franchise has put a lot of time and energy into the faces of the side, you want to retain the core components. There could be a lot of turnover because you get to retain only six out of 20 players. I’m not sure about the (new) retention levels, and maybe the league will review those things.”
It could certainly spell an end to Mumbai’s idea of betting big on young Indian players. At the 2015 auction, they went big on upcoming Indian players, and their decision to do that was rewarded when five of them went on to become world champions with the junior team last year. Those five played key roles in Mumbai’s march to the final this year.
Skipper Florian Fuchs did touch about it. “I don’t know about the retention of players, but we do have a good foundation with young players. It’s also what the franchise was looking at when they went to the auction.” Six teams will have to do it all over again.