New Delhi: Two former India captains " Rajpal Singh and Arjun Halappa " will look to shed the disappointment of being overlooked for India's Olympics probables when they lead Delhi Wizards and Karnataka Lions respectively in the fourth match of the World Series Hockey (WSH) here at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium on Friday.
After excluding Rajpal and Halappa for the Olympics qualifiers, Hockey India (HI) ignored the two veterans in the 48-member list of Olympics probables as well. So it's a given that both will have more than a point to prove when they take the field for their respective franchises in the WSH.
But there is another setback that the teams will have to cope with. The stars of India's victorious campaign in the Olympics qualifiers, some of whom had signed up with Delhi and Karnataka, will be absent. Gurbaj Singh, Manjeet Kullu, Rupinderpal Singh (Delhi) and Ignace Tirkey, SK Uthappa and Sandeep Singh (Karnataka) have snubbed WSH to attend the national camp in Bangalore, which begins on March 5.
While that hasn't made IHF and Nimbus " joint owners of the WSH " one bit happy, they are determined to not let it affect the tournament, which took off on schedule with a glittering opening ceremony on Wednesday, followed by the opening match between Chandigarh Comets and Bhopal Badshahs.
Immediately after the Olympics qualifiers in Delhi, HI had announced the list of 48 probables and commencement of the first national camp in Bangalore from March 5, putting the participation of Indian stars in jeopardy. And now besides Delhi and Karnataka, the other six franchises will also have to re-draw their plans.
However, both teams will still have enough firepower to put a strong playing XI together on Friday. Delhi have in their ranks Canadian Mark Pearson, who is a real opportunist in front of the goal, and Pakistans Shakeel Abbassi, who can be menacing with his runs down the flank.
Similarly for the Jude Felix-coached Karnataka, players like Adnan Maqsood (Pakistan) and Zeshan Ashraf (Pakistan) are more than capable to make up for the loss of Indian stars. But the crowd-puller on Friday will remain Indian legend Dhanraj Pillay.
Having retired after the 2005 Athens Olympics, Pillay - whose career spanned from December 1989 to August 2004 " will make a return to professional hockey at the age of 43. The former Indian centre-forward has 339 international caps and around 170 goals under his belt, besides being the only player to have played in four Olympics (1992 to 2004), four World Cups (1990 to 2002), four Champions Trophies (1995, 1996, 2002, 2003) and four Asian Games (1990 to 2002).
However, it will be a test for Pillay who will be playing with and against much younger players.
The second match of the double-header on Friday will be between Mumbai Marines and Bhopal Badshahs. While Mumbai will be playing their first match of the League, it will be the second outing for Bhopal after they beat Chandigarh Comets 4-3 in the opening match on Wednesday.