Sandeep Singh caught the imagination of the national selectors after his good performance in the Azlan Shah Cup in 2008 and was given the reins of the Indian team. In his first full-fledged tournament as skipper in the Four-Nation Punjab Gold Cup, Sandeep led a side that went down fighting against Holland in the final. HT caught up with the gutsy sardar after the match. Excerpts:
India lost after taking a 1-0 lead? What is your take on the team’s performance?
Everyone chipped in and we played like a unit. The forwards scored the goals, the mid-fielders created goal-scoring opportunities and the defence was strong in keeping the attackers at bay. It is unfortunate that we lost despite taking the lead.
Was it difficult to motivate the team after one of the selectors spread the 'perform or perish' message?
We played each match with the ambition to make India proud. I didn't let anything distract my boys. They played with an open heart.
Are you happy with your own performance?
I didn't perform as per my own expectations. I could have converted more goals. But I am happy the team shared the burden to create goal-scoring chances.
You missed a penalty-stroke against Holland in the first leg. Was it because of pressure?
Missing and scoring goals is part and parcel of the game. There was no pressure while I was taking the penalty-stroke. I was trying to score the goal, but unfortunately missed it.
India had to settle for a 4-4 draw against Holland. Had you scored, the result would have been in India's favour…
If I had converted the penalty-stroke and Holland would have been under pressure. I was sad after the match was drawn.
Winning the tournament in Chandigarh would have been something special?
Chandigarh is like a hometown. We have played here in three PHLs. For me, Chandigarh is special, specially the PGI Hospital that supported me when I was hit by a bullet. It would have been better had we won the final.