Women players at a practice match at Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Hero Hockey India League (HIL), in its second edition with six teams instead of five, will start in Rhino city Ranchi, but speculations are rife on whether Chak De man Shah Rukh Khan, fresh from his Chennai Express triumph, will invest in team No. 6.
Lightning-fast stick action will scorch the capital — whose team won the first edition of Hockey India League in 2013 — in the franchise’s second edition.
The first match will be held in Ranchi. The grand finale is also most likely to be hosted in — you guessed it — Ranchi.
As announced in New Delhi earlier, HIL 2 will play out between January 23 and February 23, with six teams, but the last one has not been announced as yet.
However, rumours of Shah Rukh Khan investing in the HIL franchise are doing the rounds. The superstar played hockey coach Kabir Khan in Chak De! India, arguably his best role so far.
“We will formally announce the sixth team in the next few days, say a week or so. As far as the detailed schedule of matches in the second edition of HIL is concerned, it will be announced in the next one month,” Rahul Trehan, public relations manager of Hockey India, told The Telegraph.
Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi will again be the venue of all the Ranchi matches in HIL’s second edition.
“Astroturf ground has been booked for HIL second edition. We have already been told by Hockey India about the January 23 inauguration,” said Savitri Purty, Hockey Jharkhand general secretary.
HIL 2 will have six teams. The first edition of HIL, between January 14 and February 10, 2013, had five teams Delhi Waveriders, Mumbai Magicians, Punjab Warriors, Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Ranchi Rhinos.
Ranchi Rhinos had defeated favourites Delhi Waveriders 2-1 in a nail-biting final before a packed Morabadi stadium.
“Apart from the inauguration match, the final of the tourney also widely expected to take place in Ranchi itself,” said Suresh Singh, another senior official of Hockey Jharkhand.
He added Ranchi would get at least six matches. “If the final is played here, the hockey-crazy city will get the chance to see seven matches,” he said.
In the debut-making HIL, Ranchi got 10 matches, including semi-finals and the grand finale.
Initially, crowd count was modest, but as Rhinos started goring rivals, successive matches witnessed a huge turnout at the 5,500-seater stadium.
Organisers arranged match displays on the big screen at the adjacent Birsa Munda Football Stadium, Morabadi, as an alternative arrangement for viewers who didn’t tickets.
Jharkhand, in the past, has nurtured iconic hockey players such as Jaipal Singh, who captained the gold medal winning Indian hockey team at Amsterdam Olympics 1928.