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Capital turf for national hockey

In this IPL season, is Ranchi game for good hockey too? Come Saturday, Hockey India’s fourth sub-junior national championship for boys, beginning at the Astroturf stadium in Morabadi, will find the answer.

Budding players from across 16 states will participate in this ‘A’ Division title clash till May 25. While the capital has hosted nationals for junior girls in the past, officials claim the sub-junior ‘A’ Division matches will be held in the city for the first time.

Hockey Jharkhand treasurer Suresh Kumar, who addressed a news meet with general secretary Savitry Purty, said teams had started arriving in Ranchi from Thursday.

“Over 320 visitors, including players and officials, will grace the event. Boarding arrangements have been made at stadium dormitories and city hotels,” said Kumar. He added that after Hockey India League earlier this year, they weren’t hoping for any more national meets. “However, late last month, the apex body (Hockey India) asked us to host the sub-junior meet,” he added.

The country boasts a total of 36 sub-junior teams. They have been split into two groups for the tournament. Ranchi and Gujarat will be hosting 16 teams each. “Four pools — A to D — have been made. Jharkhand is in Pool B along with Karnataka, Bhopal and Andhra,” said Purty. She added that the girls’ meet in the same category had been simultaneously scheduled in Pune and Uttarakhand. “Our eves are in Pool A and are leaving tomorrow (Friday) for Pune.”

Hockey India has appointed Purty as chief selector for Ranchi for this meet. “Besides ensuring that the tourney happens smoothly, I will also screen talents for the upcoming nationals and internationals,” said the former India player.

According to Purty, Jharkhand has done well so far this year. “After a long gap, three junior players Abhay Ekka, Nitesh Kiro and Pankaj Kumar Razak have made it to the Team India probables list. Also, Junior World Cup squad member Bigan Soy has entered the list of senior probables. So has Asuntha Lakra. Apart from these, 12 state players have made it to the junior national team and their training camp will begin in Bhopal from May 26,” she said.

Meets like these generally witness poor turnout nationwide. Besides, Ranchi is in IPL mode with two more matches of the Chennai Super Kings scheduled on May 18 and 22. So do the organisers have any special plan to draw crowds?

Hockey Jharkhand treasurer Kumar said they hoped to see good enthusiasm because entry was free and the summer vacation was on. “For those who love sports, the hockey tournament only widens range of entertainment.”

But, with just two days left for the meet, it is learnt that water scarcity is giving organisers nightmares. Out of the two water motors, one is lying defunct for quite sometime leading to no supply to dormitories and toilets.

Kumar conceded the problem, but claimed they had made alternative arrangements. “Water isn’t a problem for the ground. For rooms and toilets, we have sought the sports director’s nod to install a new pump. We hope to manage the crisis before match day,” he said.