In his hey days, Sardar Singh was the pride of India. The 31-year-old was simply the best player, one who could score goals and was the livewire in the midfield with his speed and creativity. Everything was going well till a spate of injuries and poor form saw Sardar being kept out of the Indian team.
All that changed when Sardar Singh was made captain of the Indian team for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia recently. It was here that one got to see the virtual ‘ghost’ of Sardar as his speed and stamina were found to be wanting. Not suprsingly, he was not included in the list of probables for the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Is it the end of Sardar as a player for Team India”
“Yes I think Sardar’s performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament came as a relevation to me,” said a former India player. The player went to say that it was quite painful to watch Sardar operate at virtually half his pace and that he also seemed to lack the inspiration to inspire the youngsters in the team,” said the player.
Its interesting to note that chief coach of Indian hockey Sjoerd Marijne has played untested Vivek Sagar as centre half in the four nation tournament in New Zealand. Vivek, who impressed everyone with his speed is touted as the replacement for Sardar in the future.
So it’s not surprising that Sardar is no longer a choice as far as the future is concerned. Says a selector who feels that Team India needs youngsters with powerful legs for the major competitions and that is where Sardar is found wanting.
‘Right now the modern hockey is all about speed—the game is played at a punishing pace and one needs powerful legs to last. Its here that Sardar is found wanting and at the age of 31 one doesn’t expect him to be as fit as youngsters half his age,” said the selector.
Even Hockey India’s director, David John was evasive when asked about Sardar’s “future. Speaking to a channel he said that, “Sardar is a 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.”
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.”
David John 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.”