New Delhi: Ranchi Rays defender Virender Lakra says having a strong defence will hold the key to the team's fortunes in the upcoming Hockey India League (HIL).
The 24-year-old Jharkhand fullback, who received a few Man-of-the-Match awards last season, will be playing his third HIL.
This year, Lakra will be supported by Amit Rohidas, Justin Reid-Ross of South Africa, Fergus Kavanagh of Australia along with new recruit Anand Lakra in the defence line.
Lakra said: "This year we are very much motivated as the whole squad will be playing for the third season together. We all are practicing hard and maintaining our focus on the preparation. This year I wish to play a bigger role for my team and I am working on other areas like midfield and penalty corner.
"I need to overcome my weaknesses in these areas and my added skills will surely help my team. It will be very tough as the best players will contest. My objective will be to restrict the opponent's goal scoring chances and I believe that a strong defence is the base of a successful team. If Amit Rohidas, Justin Reid-Ross, Fergus Kavanagh and I manage clean sheets in our home matches, then our chances for the finals become stronger."
Ranchi Rays is also likely to benefit wityh the presence of their established players such as Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton (both from England), Nicolas Wilson of New Zealand along with new players Trent Mitton and Daniel Beale of Australia.
Speaking about his team, Lakra said, "This season again I feel, Ranchi Rays is one of the title contenders keeping in mind the team line-up we have in place. With the top class players like Ashley Jackson, Barry Middleton and Nicolas Wilson, we can maintain a winning momentum in the League."
The opening day will see Ranchi Rays taking on Kalinga Lancers on January 22 in Bhubaneswar.