The stage is set for a pulsating semifinal between leaders Chandigarh Comets and the redoubtable Pune Strykers in the Bridgestone World Series Hockey (WSH) to be played at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium here on Sunday.
Comets have peaked gradually and have therefore convinced many supporters that they are indeed the tournament favourites as a team with tremendous fighting capabilities. On the other hand, to say that Pune Strykers possess terrific fightback skills would be an understatement.
The difference in the two teams lies probably in consistency.
Comets' head coach Harendra Singh prefers to keep things low-key for the external world. Their international stars, the Pakistani Rehan Butt and Canadian forward Sukhwinder 'Gabbar' Singh have let their sticks to the talking; Butt has been an exemplary leader, inspiring and motivating youngsters like the upcoming drag-flick star Gurjinder Singh to improve in leaps ands bound.
No wonder, they won nine out of 14 matches, lost just four and drew one, to take the top position in the league. Comets struck 46 goals in these matches and allowed only 34 - exhibiting a better striking power and tighter defence than all the other semifinalists overall.
On the eve of their semifinal, coach Harendra Singh said: "This is the biggest platform for Indian hockey and world hockey outside the Olympics and the World Cup. All the four teams have the potential to win the title, but the team which can play to the plan, will eventually succeed."
The venue is just over a hundred miles away from the homes of Pune Strykers but they have travelled the whole distance to reach the semifinal of the WSH. They carry the experience and ability to fightback from difficult situation more than any other team in the league, but they will avoid facing a similar situation for the semis.
Strykers have an experienced bunch of players led by the reliable Canadian, Ken Periera, the pace-setter for the goalscorers in the initial part of the league, penalty-corner expert Gurpreet Singh, Argentine legend Mario Nicolas Almada, apart from a bevy of young talent like Nikkin Thimmaiah, Vishny Pillay, Bikas Topo to name a few.