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

Sardar Singh was dropped from the Indian hockey team’s Commonwealth Games squad that will be held in Gold Coast.

other sports Updated: Mar 13, 2018 23:48 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Indian hockey team,Sardar Singh,Sjoerd Marijne
Indian hockey team player Sardar Singh in action against Ireland during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.(AFP)

Sjoerd Marijne, the chief coach of Indian men’s hockey team, stuck his neck out and recommended dropping Sardar Singh for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. Though the event in Australia is not top priority for him and his team, considering there are crucial events like Asian Games and the Hockey World Cup later in the year, the team’s performance at Gold Coast will be closely monitored because of the bold decisions Marijne has taken in the last few months.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, the 43-year-old coach gives the rationale behind his decision to leave out Sardar and the challenges India will face at Gold Coast. Excerpts:

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How will you rate this side’s chances at the Commonwealth Games?

I have been the coach for around four-and-half months. I am really happy with this squad because everybody has been on a short tour or two and we (have been able to) see which players have performed the best. I think this is the right (set) to go to for the Commonwealth Games.

How do you rate India’s pool in the Commonwealth Games?

It is difficult to rate as we don’t know a lot about Pakistan or Wales. Of course, we know Malaysia having played against them. For me, the most important thing is to focus on ourselves. I am not so bothered by other countries. If we are focused, we will beat other countries.

What according to you are the takeaways from the last two competitions (New Zealand tour and Azlan Shah Cup)?

We went to Azlan Shah and played really well with a few inexperienced players. We should have won against Ireland but we were very close in other matches even though the other teams were full strength. We missed two or three key players. Overall, I think we did really well and it was good experience for a lot of players. The takeaway from the New Zealand tour was consistency. We played eight matches and in those matches we did not drop our level and we won the matches that we should win --- against lower ranked countries, and we were very close against Belgium — one win and one draw. That gives us a good feeling because Belgium is one of the best teams at the moment.

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How did these two tours help in picking the squad for Commonwealth Games?

We put players in positions where there was pressure. The players knew if their performance was not up to scratch, they would not be taken to Commonwealth Games.

Where do you think is Sardar Singh’s future headed?

We had competition for midfield positions. Manpreet picks himself but Sardar was a contender for the other slot. The players finally picked are more diverse than Sardar, they can also score, all three of them (Chinglensana, Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad). They are also good defenders in the midfield and are fast as forwards. Besides, they also play vertical. That is why we did not pick Sardar. However, a squad of 24 players will be announced after the Commonwealth Games and Sardar will be in it.

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

What are your expectations from the Commonwealth Games?

The Indian team always goes to tournaments to win gold and that’s our goal. I expect the team to be consistent and if we manage to play according to our plans, our performance will be good and we will be successful.

So, where does Commonwealth Games stand in your plan for the entire year?

Of course, Asian Games and World Cup are the two important tournaments. But to be good there, we need to be good at other tournaments like Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy at Breda (Netherlands) where we will play against higher-ranked countries as well as teams that play Asian Games.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 22:02 IST