Hockey Indias ambitious city-based league,scheduled for January 2013,continues to attract corporate support and top stars.
Gurdeep Singh Ponty Chadhas Wave Group pocketed the Delhi franchise on Monday,joining Sahara India (Lucknow),Jaypee Group (Punjab) and Patel-Uniexcel (Ranchi) on the list of franchise owners.
Those in the know say actor Shah Rukh Khan and industrialist Mukesh Ambani are keen to be part of hockeys own IPL.
To showcase its quality, HI,at its logo unveiling function on Tuesday,is expected to name Australian star and thrice FIH International Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer as a brand ambassador.
Dwyer,a past World All-Star skipper,will be one of the 60 international players distributed equally among the six teams.
Indias top 96 players,including the entire Olympics squad,will form the core of the league. Matches will be played on a home-and-away basis with 70 minutes split in four quarters. Each team will have a local and a foreign marquee player,and will field two U-19 players for at least 20 minutes.
HI secretary-general and the leagues chairman Narinder Batra said,We are moving towards establishing this as the worlds best hockey league. We have signed up four major business groups and are in advanced talks for the other two franchises.
It is learnt that Mumbai,Bangalore and Chennai are in the fray for the two remaining slots. HI officials said that a global electronics major with interests in hockey playing countries could own one of the southern teams.
With FIH providing a window for the league (international action outside India will stop in January-February),officials wouldnt be worried about the club vs country debate that the IPL has been grappling with.
There is such massive thirst for hockey in India. The structure also helps the growth of the sport by integrating junior players into each line-up, FIH president Leandro Negre had said at the leagues launch.
With the Senior National Champions scheduled from September 23 to October 2 in Bangalore,talent scouts from franchise teams can be expected to watch closely from the sidelines. The players auction will take place in the first week of next month.