After axe, Sardar Singh says his fitness, anticipation level as good as anyone in Indian hockey team
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After axe, Sardar Singh says his fitness, anticipation level as good as anyone in Indian hockey team

Sardar Singh was dropped from the Indian hockey team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to held in Gold Coast in April.

other sports Updated: Mar 13, 2018 20:13 IST
Navneet Singh & Sandip Sikdar
Navneet Singh & Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sardar Singh,Indian hockey team,2018 Commonwealth Games
Sardar Singh has been axed from the Indian hockey team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.(HT Photo)

Till 2016, Sardar Singh was the captain, the nucleus, someone who was synonymous with Indian hockey.

Come 2016 Rio Olympics and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh replaced Sardar as skipper. The reason given by then India coach Roelant Oltmans was that they wanted to reduce the responsibilities on Sardar.

READ | PR Sreejesh returns, Sardar Singh dropped from Commonwealth Games hockey squad

Since then, it has been a downhill road for Sardar, who was a regular in the FIH All-Star teams. From being engulfed in a sexual assault case to the loss of captaincy, Sardar has also found it difficult to keep his spot in the India team. The playmaker was dropped for the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar in late 2017 and on Tuesday was also not selected for the Commonwealth Games.

So is it over for Sardar? But that is not how the former skipper feels. “I feel there is a lot of hockey left in me. I will try to earn a place for Asian Games. I have always given my best on the field and will continue to do so,” he said.

Sardar was clueless why he wasn’t considered for the first major event of 2018 just after leading India at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where the team finished a dismal fifth out of six teams.

Experts are also not losing hope. Former India coach Paul van Ass said he is very “fond of Sardar and would definitely like to see him make a comeback”.

READ | Indian women’s hockey team draws with South Korea, win series 3-1

Not losing hope

Two-time Olympic medallist Ajit Pal Singh said that the selection committee would always pick the best team suited for the tournament.

“The coaches and selection committee always select the best possible team. If a player fits in their scheme of things, they select him. Probably they wanted fresh blood. At one of point, every player has to retire. They are also preparing for the World Cup which is the most important tournament in the sport,” said the 1975 World Cup-winner.

Former India international Gagan Ajit Singh, however showed confidence in the midfielder, saying that Sardar can make a comeback.

“It all depends on his performance and fitness. A player, no matter how big or small, can be dropped during his career. But I believe he can surely make a comeback,” said Olympian Gagan Ajit.

READ | Australia see off England for 10th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup title

More determined

Being out of the team, however, has made Sardar more determined to show his mettle.

“If the selection panel believes someone is better than me, it is fine, I have no hard feelings. All I can say that the level of my fitness and anticipation is as good as anyone.

“Chief national coach Sjoerd Marijne has adopted a rotational system and has laid emphasis on different combinations,” said Sardar. “I wasn’t selected in some international competitions while in the ones I played, I gave my best. It’s up to the selection panel to consider me or not.”

Sardar will now take a short break and will wait for Hockey India’s announcement for the next national camp.

READ | India beat Ireland 4-1 to finish 5th in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

“Knowing Sardar, he will try his best to make a comeback as this is a crucial year with the Asian Games and the World Cup. He is a fighter. He would want to retire on a high. Obviously if you are dropped for the Commonwealth Games, it is an indication,” said Baljeet Singh Saini, former India defender and currently the coach of the junior women’s team.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 19:55 IST