Netting criminals, not goals: Former hockey skipper gets set for new innings, but Covid holds him up
Earlier, it was all about maintaining peak fitness levels and honing his hockey playing skills as captain of the Indian team. Now,for 34-year-old Sardar Singh, life is as disciplined as before, but since he hung up his (sports) boots the stick has been replaced by weapons and strategising is done to net criminals, not goals.
Undergoing police training at the Haryana Police Academy in Madhuban, Sardar Singh’s morning starts with parade and physical training drills followed by classes in weapons handling and operations, investigation theory and law. Special instructions are given to cadets by top policemen narrating their experiences in handling critical situations.
In the current situation, new lessons in handling the Covid-19 lockdown and “unlock” situations are also imparted.
However, things have come to a halt for a brief while, again due to Covid-19, as the sportsman and winner of Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards, currently training as deputy superintendent of police (DSP), has tested positive for Covid-19.
Isolating at home in Panchkula, Sardar Singh says: “There have been Covid-19 cases in Madhuban, outdoor training is discontinued for the last few days. All seven DSP trainees in my batch were tested and two, including me, were found positive. Being part of the police force, in the recent past, we have had numerous discussions on the outbreak so I am not psychologically impacted by the news.”
Fortunately, though he does not have any symptoms, Sardar Singh is self isolating at home according to health protocols and will rejoin the academy once he recovers.
The transition from sports gear to khaki, he says, has been easy. “Police training has again put me back in the schedule of my playing days. In Madhuban we have to get out of bed at 4.30am for parade, followed by two sessions of PT drills.”
Sitting in class used to be ‘tough’
The toughest challenge for the veteran of over 300 international matches is to sit in a classroom for theoretical sessions. “It’s almost after a gap of 14 to 15 years that I am back in the classroom culture. Because it’s police training you can’t afford to take anything lightly, so I had no other choice. Initially, I found it tough to sit still in class but later, when we got to investigation theories and weapons my interest levels peaked.”
Grateful to the ustads (teachers) for being tough but supportive, Sardar Singh says, “At times, whenever I get stuck and have issues related to the technicalities of the training, they (teachers) do a lot of hand-holding.”
Grateful for support
When asked if he’s getting special treatment being the sports star that he is, Sardar Singh replies, “Once you are in the police academy, everyone is treated at par. But I am thankful to the director of the academy, Inspector General Yoginder Singh Nehra, who is always there to support us and listen to our queries.”
The two-time Olympian was recruited as a DSP in the Haryana police force under the sports quota in 2008 but could not undergo the mandatory one-year training.
Last year, after announcing his retirement, he joined police training, taking a couple of months off in between to play in the professional league in Canada.
“My training is in its final phases and after that we will undergo three months of field training at a police station. Let’s hope I am able to contribute similarly to the police services as I have done in the sports field,” he signs off.