UP Wizards retain Sreejesh, Raghunath, Ockenden

Lucknow, Aug 13 (IANS) Hockey India League (HIL) franchise Uttar Pradesh Wizards on Thursday retained experienced goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, V.R. Raghunath, Ramandeep Singh and two seasoned overseas players — Australian Eddie Ockenden and Dutchman Wouter Jolie for the next two editions.

Indian team vice-captain Sreejesh, who joined Wizards last year, will receive $60,000 per season while defender and penalty corner specialist Raghunath will bag $53,000. The Indian team regular got $76,000 per edition in the first three years.

Indian international forward Ramandeep also lowered his fee from $81,000 to $57,000.

Apart from the Indian trio, Wizards decided to hold back attacking Australian midfielder Ockenden ($66,000) as well as defender Jolie ($48,000). The Dutchman is also known for his penalty corner conversion abilities.

Wizards’ best performance was in the inaugural edition in 2013 when the Roelant Oltmans-coached side claimed third position. In the 2014 and 2015 editions, they lost the third place matches to now defunct Ranchi Rhinos and Delhi Waveriders respectively.

Last year, Oltmans rotated the captaincy between Raghunath, Ockenden and Jolie.

Meanwhile Wizards released experienced Dutch playmaker Jeroen Hertzberger, seasoned Spanish midfielder David Alegre and Indian youngsters — Nikkin Thimmaiah, S.K. Uthappa, Jasjit Singh Kular and Harjeet Singh.

“It will be my honour to continue representing Uttar Pradesh Wizards. I am happy to be retained and from here I am looking forward to the upcoming edition as the excitement will go a notch higher. With so much of shuffling in each team it will bring a fresh challenge which will be to know each other and deliver as a unit,” Sreejesh said in a release.

“But this will be an experience in itself as you will get to play with new players and in a way learning newer skills from each other. With Raghunath and Jolie continuing to hold the defence with me will help, as we understand our style of play and which we will mould with the new members that are due to come in.”

Speaking on the decision of retaining the five players, Sahara Adventure Sports Limited Director Abhijit Sarkar said: “The choice of holding back Sreejesh and Raghunath was easy because while one is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world today, the other one is the best drag flicker. So retaining them was the easiest choice for us.

“Apart from them Ramandeep was the next choice keeping in mind his skills as an attacker and the manner in which he cleverly breaks the opponents defence is amazing. Within the foreigners Ockenden and Jolie have been retained keeping in mind the value that they add to any team line-up.”