Ranchi, a tiny city in the state of Jharkhand in India’s north east, became a popular city in India about five years ago when Indians discovered that their accidental cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, grew up there. But the city never really had a sports team to call their own. The popular domestic cricket tournament, the IPL, currently has 9 teams from some of India’s biggest cities. Alas, Ranchi is not one of them.
It took the sport of hockey to give “The City of Waterfalls” it’s first ever sports team, and it took eight imports from all over the world to give Ranchi victory in the first ever Hockey India League. This team is truly the “United Nations” of hockey. Most other countries had a heavy bias towards a single nation — the Punjab Warriors stuffed their team with seven Australians, and the Mumbai Magicians had four Pakistanis (they never played because of political tensions between the two countries, and were sent home). The team Ranchi beat in the finals, the Delhi WaveRiders, had a big Indian contingent.
Ranchi were clever about building their team, importing the best talent that is to offer from across the world. Captain Mo Fuerste, the 2012 FIH Player of the Year and the undisputed leader of the team, is from Germany. Penalty corner specialist Ashley Jackson is from England. Goalkeeper Francisco Cortes — from Spain. Forward Nick Wilson is from New Zealand. Defender Fergus Kavanaugh is from Australia, and midfielders Austin Smith and Justin Reid Ross are from South Africa. Dutchman Floris Evers rounds out this motley crew. And don’t forget the Find Of The Tournament, young Mandeep Singh of India. The Rhinos also had Shafkat Rasool and Mohd Irfan from Pakistan, but thanks to politics, they had to leave early. Did we miss anyone? At last count, the Rhinos had players from nine countries.
This tournament has bought together the best players from all over the world. The games were special, and the hockey was sublime. And the Rhinos have shown us that the basics still matter — quality talent, good leadership (in Fuerste) and hard-working and efficient teamwork. We just wonder what language they used to communicate on the field.