The fracas with Pakistan player during a three-nation International Hockey Series in Australia may have a bearing on India's fortunes in the upcoming Champions Challenge I.
Thus, India may miss the services of forward Gurvinder Singh Chandi and assistant coach Jugraj Singh in the first couple of matches of Champions Challenge I, to be held at Johannesburg, South Africa, from November 26 to December 4, unless they manage to successfully appeal and get their five-match suspensions reduced.
Chandi and Jugraj have been suspended for five matches each for their involvement in the on-field skirmish with the Pakistani players in a league match at Busselton. Midfielder Gurbaj Singh, the main character in the drama, was suspended for three matches while stand-in skipper Tushar Khandkar and exercise physiologist, David John, the stand-in manager, were penalised one match each.
With three matches remaining in the second leg at Bunbury --- one league match each against hosts Australia and Pakistan besides the final or 3rd/4th place match --- Gurbaj, Khandkar and David will cop their punishment in Australia itself.
“Our Competitions Manager has sent all the evidence to FIH and the matter is now in their hands,” Hockey Australia's communication manager Shaun Anderson told HT in an email message.
Indians set to appeal
The team management has decided to lodge an appeal against the punishment meted out to the Indian players while the Pakistanis, who started the fight, have gone virtually scot-free with only skipper Shakeel Abbasi suspended for one match. The Indians claim that Abbasi and other Pakistani players attacked Gurbaj after the Indian midfielder's stick hit a rival forward.
“They had no business taking matters in their hand after the umpire had ruled and awarded a penalty corner against us. The Pakistani player was not hit intentionally. Such things happen in a match,” said a Hockey India source.
Unfortunate incident: Khandkar
Meanwhile, Khandkar said that the team has overcome the turmoil of losing three players to suspension. “As a hockey player, I feel this should not have happened. But we cannot live in the past, we have got to overcome it and in fact we have overcome it,” said Khandkar, who was suspended for a match in which he was captain-designate and was sitting on the bench and not involved in the fracas.
Khandkar said the team has enough resources to do well in the remaining matches.