The hockey tournament we won’t have in January
A January fixture in the hockey calendar will be felt only by its absence in 2018—the Hockey India League is taking a break this year; organizers have promised a return in 2019.
The tournament has helped unearth talent and made the sport more financially viable for hockey players. The league has also been marked by rising competition. The first season, for instance, showed a large gap between the best and worst teams. This has narrowed significantly over the years. In its five editions from 2013 to 2017, the contest has seen four different champions.
Different teams have had success in different seasons. For instance, Delhi’s win percentage at the pool stage dropped from 75% in the inaugural season of 2013 to 30% in 2017. Mumbai’s success rate rose from under 10% in 2013 to 60% in 2017.
Mumbai’s rise was helped by the likes of drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, who scored seven goals in the 2017 tournament. Singh, who was earlier part of the victorious 2016 Junior World Cup squad, was adjudged the emerging player of the league.
The league has generated fresh interest in India’s national sport, and seems to have contributed to the country’s improved performance in hockey over the past few years. From the 11th position in 2013, the Indian team moved up to the 6th in international rankings in 2017.
But Hockey India League’s viewership has been relatively low compared with other sporting events, and it has been facing viability issues because of this.
League officials have maintained that this year’s tournament was cancelled because of the non-availability of players, who have international commitments. They have also said that they would be taking a fresh look at the format when the teams return next year.
It remains to be seen whether the hockey league is able to attract a wider audience if and when it returns.
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