End of the road for Sardar Singh? Hockey India director David John hints so

Hockey India director David John refused to advise Sardar Singh when to retire from the game, but said that in games during the Azlan Shah hockey in Malaysia early this month, the ageing star sometimes lacked leg speed, which was a big problem.

other sports Updated: Mar 16, 2018 10:55 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Sardar Singh,David John,Hockey India
Sardar Singh, ex-Indian hockey team captain, was left out of the 2018 Commonwealth Games squad.(Getty Images)

It seems all over for former Indian hockey team captain Sardar Singh as Hockey India’s high-performance director David John wants young legs with great speed to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Our emphasis is on young legs having a good speed as we aren’t a strong nation in terms of physical strength like Australia and Germany. So our emphasis is on fast hockey and youngsters are better suited to this,” David said in an exclusive chat here on Thursday.

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He refused to advise Sardar when to retire from the game, but said that in games during the Azlan Shah hockey in Malaysia early this month, the ageing star sometimes lacked leg speed, which remained a big problem.

“He (Sardar) still holds good skills and commands the ball well, but in the last 12-18 months the game has become more faster. Sardar wasn’t matching to it. Much would depend on how we pick our core group of 24 and also a development group of 24 after the national championship here,” said David.

“It would be Sardar’s call to take a decision about his retirement. He is very sensible and very competitive. He has played hockey up to a very high level and still wants to play at the top, which is quite difficult for him now,” he said, adding, “We have good young players in the midfield, and we would like to pick those youngsters, who could serve the game till 2020.”

READ | Indian hockey team players picked in midfield are better than Sardar Singh: Coach

Commenting on Manpreet Singh-led Indian team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, starting April 4 at Gold Cost in Australia, David claimed that this was the best team he picked for the mega event.

“This is the best combination we picked this year. Selection was purely based on their forms on previous three tournaments. They are a confident lot, and I find them the best combination we could have this moment,” he said, adding, “Everyone is fit, healthy raring to go.”

He, however, accepted that upcoming Asian Games was on top of the agenda of the Hockey India as a podium finish would give the side direct entry to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “We have 8-9 big tournaments this year, but Asian Games is top of our priorities. If we qualify for the Tokyo Games, we will have two years time to prepare and try out all our combinations to pick the best side.”

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He also admitted that there were all possibilities of a change in the core group of 24 for the future events like Asian Games, Olympic qualifiers and the World Cup. “Players would keep on rotating from core group to development group so a healthy competition of performance would always be there between the players. There were a few good youngsters at the Azlan Shah tourney, and I would certainly like to give them a chance to play in big events in future.”

David, who is here to spot young talents at the ongoing senior nationals, also hoped a good show from the Indian women’s team at the Gold Cost Games. “We are a very good women’s side in the event. They have been doing well in the recent past. There would be just three higher ranked teams like New Zealand, Australia and England, and if we make the cut for a berth in the semi-final, the pressure would be on other teams,” said David, who would be accompanying the women’s team as manager at Gold Cost.

“Gurjit Kaur is one of the best drag-flicker in the world, and I am sure she would put her best foot forward at the Games,” added David, who termed the presence of team’s analytical coach and former Australian drag-flicker Chris Ciriello good for the Indian hockey.

“I knew Chris was going to retire soon so I purposely asked him join the Indian team. We needed such an experienced man in our coaching group and Chris’ impact is already reflecting with the team’s showing now days,” said David, who also advocated that he would love to see junior men’s camp happening in Lucknow, where facilities have been far better than other places in the country.

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 10:54 IST