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The right end of the stick

SPORT

Aabhas Sharma  |  New Delhi 

The fourth edition of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) began this week in Chandigarh and promises to be a more exciting affair than previous editions. Since its inception, the PHL has had its share of sceptics as well as followers, but it has become an important part of the Indian sporting calendar.
The second season of the PHL was a disappointment in terms of the number of spectators who turned up for the game, but the authorities have ensured that even if people don't flock in great numbers, the viewership is more than decent. The fact that the number of foreign players has increased to more than 20 is an added attraction.
According to Maurits Hendriks, technical consultant of PHL and the national hockey coach of the Spanish hockey team, the PHL has been great for the sport in the country as well as outside it: "PHL has helped the hockey fraternity promote hockey not only in India but also outside India "" globally the league has become so popular that it has actually inspired the launch of the European Hockey League earlier this year."
Like the PHL, which has four quarters rather than the traditional system of two halves, even the European league has accepted innovations.
The league carries a total prize money of Rs 76 lakh. The winning team gets Rs 40 lakh, the runners-up Rs 20 lakh, and the losing semi-finalists get Rs 5 lakh each.
As far as the competition is concerned, Chandigarh Dynamos seem to have the right blend of youth and experience, while the Hyderabad Sultans are former champions and would pose a threat to any team. The Bangalore Lions are another team which has the potential to go all the way.
Though Indian hockey might not have reaped dividends from the PHL, it has generated interest and provides youngsters a chance to show their talent. Cynics would not have given the PHL an outside chance to last these four years, but it has defied them. Let's hope it yields long-term benefits for the national sport.

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First Published: Sun, December 23 2007. 00:00 IST
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