For someone who will be playing his tenth match in 20 days — lest we forget the relentless travel — Sardar Singh looked refreshingly relaxed on the eve of their final group game against Mumbai Magicians here on Saturday. Perhaps, it was because his team, Delhi Waveriders, sit pretty atop the Hockey India League points table and have beaten every other team at least once. Or maybe, it has more to do with the upcoming week-long break for his team before they return to the field, rejuvenated, for the semifinal in Ranchi.
Delhi have played most number of matches so far — one more than second-placed Punjab Warriors — and will be concluding their group stage commitments on Saturday against the bottom-placed Mumbai side. On the face of it, the hosts do not seem to pose a threat to Delhi, who are expected to win easy.
Mumbai boast of quite a few quality players but have failed to gel as a team. They have conjured up a few decent performances but luck has eluded them, as was evident in their previous match against Delhi 10 days ago. Back then, Mumbai stretched Delhi to the limit before Yuvraj Walmiki scored the winner for Delhi four minutes from time.
No wonder, the table-toppers consider Mumbai as a ‘dangerous’ opponent. But more than the outcome of Saturday’s match, Delhi coach Cedric D’Souza stressed it was important for his side to carry on the momentum going into the semifinals. “Psychologically, it will help us if we go into the semifinal after winning our last group match. We have been playing well, though we have lost a couple of close matches. But we want to win Saturday’s game to keep the momentum going in our favour. Momentum and recovery will be crucial,” the former India coach said.
Sardar nodded in agreement as Cedric spoke about the need of continuing the winning habit and dealing with the fatigue simultaneously. He knows its importance. The pattern of Delhi’s performance has been strikingly similar to last season. However, they faltered right when it mattered —the final.
The India captain insists the team is determined to better their performance from last season, pointing out the quality his side possesses.
You can’t argue. Delhi have one of the strongest sides on paper — Germany’s Nicolas Jacobi has stood like a rock in front of the goal, Rupinder Pal Singh’s accurate drag-flicks have been an asset, Sardar and Gurbaj Singh have been solid in the midfield while New Zealand’s Simon Child – who has most number of field goals so far — adds a different dimension to their attacks.
Cedric, one of the two Indian coaches in the league, has managed to extract the most out of the individuals. And the evidence is seen on the pitch, where Delhi have looked one of the most most balanced units. It will be interesting to see whether he will be tempted to give some of his key players rest against Mumbai and preserve the semifinals. But Sardar rules it out. “We have one week after this match to rest. We need to keep the winning momentum going,” Sardar said.
Friday’s result: Lancers bt Rhinos 4-1
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