Ranchi, Oct 26: Indian captain MS Dhoni, who recently became a co-owner of football team Chennaiyins FC, has joined Sahara Adventures Sports Limited to co-own the new Ranchi-based Hockey India League (HIL) team Ranchi Rays, which was unveiled here Saturday (October 25).
Ranchi Rhinos, who were the inaugural champions of HIL, was scrapped following distrust between owners (Patel-PS Group and Uniexcel Group) and Hockey India (HI) last month.
Besides acquiring a football and now a hockey team, Dhoni also owns Mahi Racing Team India.
"It is a special day for me as I own the new HIL team of my city, Ranchi Rays for the promotion of the sport which is very popular in Jharkhand. I feel good while promoting other sports as well. Other reason for owning this team is Ranchi played very well in the past two seasons," Dhoni told reporters.
"In hockey, I think development at the grass-root level is quite necessary. Young players need right guidance and good infrastructure to excel. Especially where the infrastructure is not that strong, it gets even more difficult to spot young and unheralded talents. By bringing in good coaches and organising some camps, I think we can get right support to the youngsters," he added.
The 33-year-old also said that his team will try to retain some of the players of the now-defunct Ranchi Rhinos.
"Most of the team's players will come from the auction but we are in talks with the league officials to try and retain some of the players who played for Ranchi in the last two editions. Retaining some old players is always helpful as they come up with experience. Also, we would like to groom Under-16 and U-19 players from the state so that they can represent us in two to three years time," he said.
Asked about his involvement in the Rays' management considering the 2011 World Cup-winning skipper's busy cricket schedules, he said: "My highest priority is to play cricket for India. Apart from that I will try my best to contribute towards different things."
Speaking on co-owning the Rays, Abhijit Sarkar, Head-Corporate Communications, Sahara India Pariwar and Director-Sahara Adventures Sports Ltd said: "Hockey is our national game and we are proud to be associated with Ranchi franchisee and are elated to continue our patronage and support for the game. We will achieve greater laurels and success in the sport of hockey in the coming years and Sahara India Pariwar is committed to the development of sport at all levels."
Sahara group also owns the Lucknow-based side Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
HIL chairman Narinder Batra expressed happiness over the support the league has received over the years and especially thanked Sahara group.
"This is a great moment for HIL to have MS Dhoni on board as a franchisee owner of the world's most prominent hockey league along with Sahara India Pariwar. This initiative by Sahara India Pariwar showcases the faith that they have in the HIL and I am happy by the kind of support that the League is garnering from all quarters."
Also present on the occasion was former women's team skipper Asunta Lakra, who also happens to be the vice-president of Hockey Jharkhand.