'Team India will not miss Sardar Singh'
Veteran midfelder's axing from Hockey World League Final squad may surprise many, but a teammate tells mid-day that his ouster was imminent
Sardar Singh's international hockey days could well be numbered, if yesterday's axing from the 18-man squad for the Hockey World League (HWL) Final to be held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, from December 1 to 10, is any indication. And it's not that the player was kept in the dark about this. A day before yesterday's announcement, coach Sjoerd Marijne sat the former captain and 2017 Khel Ratna awardee down to inform him about the decision taken by Hockey India's selection committee.
Veteran midfielder Sardar Singh led India to gold at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Pic/Getty Images
All's not over for Sardar
"Coach Marijne had a one-on-one talk with Sardar yesterday to inform him that he would not be part of the Odisha event. He however, told him that he's not completely out of his plans and he could make a return depending on how the team performs in this tournament," a member of the line-up, who did not wish to be named, told mid-day from Bangalore. Until recently, Sardar was Indian hockey's mainstay. The former FIH All-Star team member made his senior India debut in 2006 against Pakistan and was made captain two years later. The 2014 Incheon Asian Games gold was one of the highlights of his captaincy. However, in the new four-quarter format, which requires consistent quick bursts of energy, the 31-year-old stylish midfielder has been found wanting. The fact that his age is almost a decade more than the average age (22) of this current Manpreet Singh-led outfit, could also be a reason for the selectors believing that he's no more a vital cog in the wheel.
Marijne, a fair coach
"To be honest, I don't think we will miss Sardar in this tournament. He's a great guy, but at the end of the day, his pace in the field has dropped and it's there for all to see. Coach Marijne has been very fair to the team. He's new to the senior men's team set-up [replaced former chief coach Roelant Oltmans in September] but is always in consultation with the senior players. He has appointed a five-member group of senior players led by Manpreet to convey to him any messages/suggestions that other players may want to send across. Even his practice routines are planned as per the senior players' suggestions," added the player. India are in Pool B of the HWL Final alongside Australia, England and Germany, while Pool A comprises Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands and Spain.
Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, Suraj Karkera
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra; Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (captain), Chinglensana Singh (vice-captain), SK Uthappa, Sumit, Kothajit Singh; Forwards: SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh
Teams visiting India will be provided security: HM Rajnath