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Sandeep?s story: Curse of the corner?

India?s campaign, only just really begun, has perhaps, already derailed. It is a waste of almost three years of sweat, skills, hard work and investment, writes Uthra Ganesan.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2006 03:03 IST

It seems Indian hockey's campaigns at the highest levels are jinxed.

Three years ago, days before India was to leave for the 2003 Asia Cup in KL, Indian hockey's latest poster-boy and the country's answer to the top drag-flickers in the world, Jugraj Singh, crashed his car, was seriously injured, and subsequently, an explosive emerging talent lost forever to Indian hockey.

That India won the Asia Cup - that ensured them a spot at the upcoming World Cup next month - and dedicated the win to Jugraj was commendable. But then, 2003 was also when Indian hockey was at its peak in recent years.

On Tuesday, when drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, on his way to the Capital en route to the World Cup- the team is expected to leave on Thursday- was 'accidentally' shot in a freak incident in a train compartment, it was déjà vu.

Sandeep is the fulcrum of the team, around whom the entire gameplan revolves. More often than not, his presence means the team would not just press for a goal, but try for penalty corners. Coach Harendra Singh has himself admitted as much.

He is the next big thing in executing them, he was improving by the day in his defensive abilities, and, most importantly, he had the necessary skills and strength to be successful.

His 'accident' has put him out of action for not just the World Cup, but most probably the Asian Games in December as well - doctors have advised him at least three months rest- and this means the team needs to find a replacement.

It is little respite that this time around, the injury isn't career threatening. And Sandeep can look forward to playing for the country again - according to doctors, the bullet apparently missed his kidneys and spine by as close as an inch- unlike Jugraj, whose recovery has been exceptional but sadly not up to international level.

But, looking beyond the immediate affects of the incident, it is a setback for the country's hopes at perhaps the worst time possible.

India won a podium finish at the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia this June after almost two years. For the first time in three years, the team actually appeared to gel together as a team.

And now, anyone replacing Sandeep would not just have to work out the equations with the rest of the team but also attune himself for a World Cup cap.

At another level, it is a waste of almost three years of sweat, skills, hard work and investment. India’s campaign, only just really begun, has perhaps, already derailed.

First Published: Aug 23, 2006 03:03 IST