The national game sank to unbelievable depths as the national team ended up with a wooden spoon finish at the London Olympics. This, after having missed out on qualifying for the previous edition of the Games in Beijing for the first time in 80 years.
Even as a young side was picked on Monday following trials in Patiala, and experienced campaigners like erstwhile skipper and goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, star drag flicker Sandeep Singh, forward Tushar Khandkar, midfielders Ignace Tirkey and Gurbaj Singh were left out, Sardar said the Olympic debacle still hurt.
London failure lingers
“Everyone is yet to get over the disappointment of the London Olympics and this is our first international assignment since, so obviously I’ve been entrusted with a big responsibility. I realise that the road ahead will be tough, but I’m proud to take up the captaincy as a challenge,” Sardar told MiD DAY from Patiala yesterday.
The former two-time FIH all-star team member however, refused to view the omission of the senior players through a negative lens. “Obviously they (seniors) will be disappointed as they will miss out on an important tournament like the Champions Trophy, but this is the best time to try out new and young talent. We have four years to go for the next Olympics (Rio de Janeiro 2016) and our preparations must begin now. So, this move must be viewed positively,” added Sardar, who previously led India to a second-place finish at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.
Facing up to big teams
“We have noticed that when we face some of the big teams like Australia, Germany, England etc, we go into the match in awe of the opposition and half the battle is lost therein. If we play them regularly, this will not happen. And in the upcoming tournaments our young team will have just this opportunity — to face some of the biggest teams and names in world hockey,” added the DSP of Haryana police.
Speaking of his new role as skipper, Sardar said it would not change the way he played the game. “I don’t think being captain adds any pressure. I will continue to play my normal game. However, I will work along with the younger members in the team and try to guide them as much as possible and share my experience with them. However, eventually it’s in their hands to perform. Performance is key under coach (Michael) Nobbs, and the message is clear — only if you perform, can you be retain your place in the national team — and that applies for everyone,” Sardar signed off.