The dream of donning the national colours is not over for players opting to play in the "unsanctioned" World Series of Hockey, as Hockey India (HI) is yet to take a final call on them.
“HI has yet to take any final decision on the players playing in the WSH,” said HI's interim president, Mariamma Koshy. “The decision would be taken by the executive board, which has given all the powers to (HI secretary-general) Narinder Batra to make the decision public.”
Nearly half of the Olympic Games probables have made up their mind to play in the WSH, to be organised from Feb 29 to April 4, and five players have already joined their respective franchises.
What will give further hope to the WSH players is that Air India, an affiliate unit of HI, has allowed 20 of its players and five officials to take part in the WSH. “We have intimated our employers about participating in the league and they have granted us permission. Since we are not representing our department or country, we have to take leave from office during the duration of the WSH,” said an Air India player.
With the sports ministry having rented out the National Stadium for the league, it would be difficult for HI to take a
harsh decision against the players, despite the international hockey federation (FIH) terming the WSH as an "unsanctioned" event. HI's coaching and development head, former skipper Ajit Pal Singh, said, “It is good that the players are getting money. But its the players, who have to decide what they want to do.”
“Had age been on my side, I would have also played in the league.” When asked whether the players would be allowed to join the national camp after playing in the WSH, he said, “I will not comment on the issue as HI has not yet made its stand clear on the issue. Moreover, my area of concern is coaching,” said Singh. It's learnt that, HI will keep the ball in players' court.
“The player who reports for the camp, irrespective of whether he plays in the league or not, will be considered for the final squad. “Those who don't, will not find a place,” said an HI official. That's the reason why HI is trying its best to organise the camp in between the WSH (March 15).