Even as the Indian team left for the World Cup late on Thursday night, the mood was one of quiet determination. The silence was courtesy Sandeep Singh’s accident that has put him out of the World Cup squad, while the determination is perhaps the team’s way of saying they would not let the incident affect performance.
“This is the time for the team to play with character and determination, like we did after Jugraj’s accident in 2003 ahead of the Asia Cup,” said Viren Rasqinha. “We are set for the World Cup,” was the simple but determined statement from goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza.
But, at the moment, the focus is on those summoned to replace Sandeep in the squad. Jugraj Singh — struggling to prove himself all over again — Vikramjit Singh and Raghunath, currently participating in the SAF Games, are in contention for the lone vacant spot.
The choices are perhaps the best at the moment. Jugraj, for whom the call would be nothing less than a miracle, said he was looking forward to making the most of the opportunity. “What happened to Sandeep was unfortunate. But now I am concentrating on proving myself for the World Cup. Lets see, the best of us would stay in Germany after the practice matches,” he said.
“Every one gets a chance, I hope to not let mine get slip through,” he said. However, the fact that he has been out of competitive hockey for almost a month goes against him, as also the fact that his fitness, though he claims otherwise, remains suspect at international level.
On his part, Vikramjit is yet to be tested. A product of the PSB Academy, he has been impressive in junior tournaments, the latest being the four-nation tournament in Singapore recently. Under-19 coach Romesh Pathania considers him a talented player who can develop into a long-term prospect. “He has scored in every international match he played and has the temperament for top-level. But he needs experience,” he admits.
The best bet at the moment remains Raghunath, who has been part of the junior team for some time now. Raghunath was also in action during the recent Independence Cup in Chennai and impressed the selectors with his performance against the seniors.
It still remains to be seen who gets green signal for Monchengladbach.