Sandeep Singh, the lanky Sardar from Shahbad Markanda, picked up a hockey stick after being inspired by elder brother Bikramjit Singh (who plays for Indian Oil) and grew up dreaming of India colours.
Sandeep had always wanted to be a drag flicker and his physique and body make-up, stood him in good stead. Since making Team India in January 2004 at the Azlan Shah, Sandeep hasn't really looked back.
And with the penalty corner becoming a potent weapon to decide a match in the hockey of today, India too, in the post-Jugraj accident scenario, found in him some comfort.
This faith was upheld when he scored 16 goals in the junior Asia Cup 2004 in Pakistan. Fourteen of those goals were converted through corners.
Interestingly, the timing of his injury is remarkably similar to that of Jugraj, both were hit when when their careers were on the rise, and they were being dubbed India’s goal machines.
Bikramjit sounded philosophical about the mess, perhaps, just thankful his brother survived. "Playing for India has always been my brother’s dream and now, just as he was establishing himself, he was injured. Well that’s destiny for you but we are praying that he recovers soon and takes to the ground at the earliest.”
Jugraj, who, in a remarkable story, is now one of the replacements for Sandeep said he could empathise with what Sandeep must be going through. “One can surely understand the disappointment of a player who has worked so hard for the World Cup but cannot play because of such an unfortunate incident. I have gone through this and can say that a lot will depend on his willpower and morale.”
Former India captain Ramandeep also termed the ouster of Sandeep at this moment as an irreparable loss to India’s hopes. Like most hockey-watchers, he believed that Sandeep would have been the country’s main scorer at the World Cup. Said Ramandeep, "After what just happened, the Indian team will have to re-group and alter their planning. Sandeep will be sorely missed."