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A gentleman who leads from the front

india Updated: Feb 23, 2010 23:42 IST
Saurabh Duggal

Going by his tough appearance, it is hard to imagine Rajpal Singh as a pop-philosopher who comes up with a gem or two every now and then.

It is this mild nature that got him into trouble with his teammates during the payment dispute with Hockey India (HI). Rajpal agreed to HI’s offer during the meeting in New Delhi and called off the strike. It did not go down well with the players and Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur, Arjun Halappa and Adrian D’Souza virtually took over the leadership.

Soon after the issue was settled, Rajpal’s name was dragged into controversy again when the players reposed faith in Prabhjot as captain. HI rejected the demand and retained Rajpal Singh as captain, but true to his nature, Rajpal, sources said, offered to hand over the captaincy to Prabhjot to maintain unity. The proposal too was rejected by HI.

Rajpal has put behind recent controversies and is focussed on the job at hand. “Everything is settled and the players are focussed on the World Cup. We will it give our best,” Rajpal told HT during his recent Chandigarh visit. “The off-field challenges we had faced in recent times have made us stronger as a team.”

Rajpal’s leadership abilities came to the fore during last year’s seven-match tour of Canada during which coach Jose Brasa rotated the captaincy and Rajpal, who led the Chandigarh Dynamos in the now-defunct Premier Hockey League, was made captain for one match. Brasa liked what he saw in Rajpal and put his faith in the man from Chandigarh when Sandeep Singh was laid low by injury before the Champions Challenge I in Salta, Argentina. India won a bronze under Rajpal’s leadership.

Though the recent controversies put him under the spotlight, Rajpal says there is no pressure. “There is no pressure because of captaincy. I want to forge the team into a single unit and bring the best out of every player,” he said.

“Four days remain for the World Cup and we are concentrating on the opening match against Pakistan. We are going match by match,” said Rajpal.

That Pakistan have done better than India recently is not a cause for concern for Rajpal. “We are taking Pakistan as any other team. We are not bothered by what happened in the past, we are going to make a fresh start in the World Cup.”