With an aim to make hockey faster and more viewer-friendly, Hockey Australia and infrastructure major LANCO Infratech Limited, on Tuesday, launched a new revolutionary nine-a-side tournament to be held in Perth from October 20 to 23.
The event named 'LANCO International Super Series' will feature hosts Australia, India, Pakistan and New Zealand in the men's category, while India, Australia and Malaysia will fight it out in the women's section for top honours.
The nine-a-side format, a brainchild of former India technical director and present Australia coach Ric Charlesworth, has been sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation and will be played under new rules, ensuring fast-paced hockey.
This is the first time such a tournament is being played internationally and the organisers have coincided the event with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Perth.
The new rules for the event include teams having nine players a side as against the usual 11, 15 minutes per half as compared to 35 minutes halves, bigger goals (1 metre wider), unlimited substitutions, one player from each team will be required to stay in the opposition half to create more space, one-on-one penalty shoot out where the striker is allowed only eight seconds to score.
The ground rules have also been relaxed to encourage continuous play. The format allows only two defenders besides the goalkeeper to stop penalty corners.
To add to it, there must not be more than four players from the attacking team for taking the penalty corners.
The players also need to stand outside the 23-meter line before they receive the out push from the back line and the penalty corner must be executed within 25 seconds.
However, in case of long corners, it is five players versus five. Again the attackers have to be outside the 23-meter area.
Explaining the new format, Charlesworth said it has been conceptualised to ensure free-flowing fast hockey, where the spectators get to see more goals.
"We decided to organise the nine-a-side tournament because we wanted to change the paradigm a little bit. This format will ensure fast and furious hockey," Charlesworth said via a video message.
"It's about entertaining public, it's about fun. It's about getting as many goals as possible," he added.
Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese, who was also present on the occasion, credited India for the Kookaburas' success in hockey.
"Cricket has a long-standing connection between the two countries but hockey has much more intimate connection.
"The growth and prowess of Australian hockey is due to a huge Indian influence. Indians who migrated to Australia had a major role to play in developing the skills of Australian players," Varghese said.
Apart from Varghese, the nine-a-side tournament's launch ceremony was also attended by chief operating officer of LANCO, Manoj Agarwal, Indian women's team coach C R Kumar and vice-captain Jasjeet Kaur Handa among others.
The Indian men's team will open their campaign in the tournament against New Zealand on October 20, while the eves will face Malaysia in their first match on the same day.