Contrary to popular belief that the controversy surrounding the Indian hockey team's captaincy had been sorted out before the start of the World Cup, comes the startling revelation the team is still a divided house. And it, probably, showed in India's performance.
Senior players HT spoke to said that coach, Jose Brasa, had never accepted Rajpal Singh as skipper. For the Spaniard, Prabhjot Singh was the de facto captain.
“He (Brasa) had directed Rajpal not to hold any team meetings or speak to the players before and after the matches. Brasa had given these rights to Prabhjot,” said a player.
“Just to make Rajpal realise who the boss was, Brasa didn't include the forward in the starting XI. Only when Shivendra Singh was banned for two matches, was Rajpal included in the starting line-up. Later, when the player returned after serving the ban, Rajpal again met with the same fate,” said the player.
“Such acts shatter the morale of a player. I appreciate Rajpal's temperament… despite such discrimination, he still performed remarkably,” said a support staff member.
HT spent an entire day at the team hotel on March 10 and noticed an undercurrent of disunity. Even the support staff had been directed not to speak to the players directly or give any instructions.
Brasa had jumped the gun and announced Prabhjot as captain, while Rajpal, Deepak Thakur, Arjuna Halappa and Adrian D'souza were the vice-captains. But Hockey India named Rajpal to lead the team.
“When the HI Selection Committee decided to stick with Rajpal, Brasa held two 'votings' in three days. The first voting was done on February 7. The support staff was asked to give its choice of captain in front of the players. Prabhjot got the maximum votes, confirmed an official attached with the team.
“On Feb 8, we got a communication from HI that Rajpal would continue as captain. Again a voting took place. This time, the players were asked to give in writing that they would not play under Rajpal,” he said. “The seeds of discord were sown then and the team is still a divided house,” he added.