Sardar Singh has a lot to offer, says hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay
India hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay rues veteran midfielder's exclusion from India's CWG squad; says young team will struggle without his experience and guidance Down Under
Veteran midfielder Sardar Singh captained India to a fifth-place finish in the recently concluded Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia
India hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay yesterday expressed extreme disappointment at the dropping of veteran midfielder Sardar Singh, 31, from the line-up for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia starting April 4.
"While I agree with the selectors' plan of focussing on youth, they should also realise that youth without experience can be ineffective. Sardar is your most experienced player and his guidance is very crucial to this young forwardline," former India captain Pillay, 49, told mid-day yesterday.
The mercurial forward explained: "Modern hockey is all about short moves set up by deceptive quick passes, and there is no player in this current Indian team who can play the deceptive pass like Sardar from the centre. He will look in one direction and then suddenly, in one sweeping action, relay a pass in the opposite direction, deceiving at least a couple of opposition players in the bargain. And of course, that pass will perfectly find an India forward's stick."
While some critics believe Sardar was getting slower with time, India coach Sjoerd Marijne said that his exclusion was due to the competition in the team, Dhanraj felt there's more to it.
"There are four quarters of 15 minutes each nowadays. So if Sardar is used in short bursts and then taken off, he can be very effective against any team in the world given his intelligent reading of the game.
"Simply removing him on the basis of a poor show by the team in the Azlan Shah Cup is unfair because he was given a junior team to lead in Malaysia. Sardar can still serve Indian hockey and it's extremely disappointing to see him being treated like this. Without Sardar this young Indian team will struggle against the mighty Australians at the CWG," added the four-time Olympian and four-time World Cupper.
Meanwhile, forward Ramandeep Singh too was excluded from the 18-member squad.
'Keeper PR Sreejesh returns
Veteran custodian PR Sreejesh is back after having suffered a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) injury during the Azlan Shah tournament last year.
His brilliant show during the New Zealand tour saw him get his rightful place back. He will be backed by the Suraj Karkera, 22, who played a crucial part in the team's good show in Bhubaneswar last year in his senior counterpart's absence.
While Manpreet Singh dons the captain's armband, the responsibilities of his deputy will be shouldered by Chinglensana Singh Kangujam.
It was under Manpreet's leadership the Indian team lifted the Asia Cup followed by a bronze medal at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar last year. India team are in Pool 'B' along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan.
With inputs from PTI
India squad for the Commonwealth Games
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Suraj Karkera
Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas; Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (C), Chinglensana Singh, Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad
Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, SV Sunil, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh