Former hockey forward Sandeep Michael passes away

The high point of Sandeep Michael’s India career was the 2003 junior Asia Cup in which he was adjudged the most promising player. He scored in crunch games against teams like Pakistan and Korea.

The high point of Sandeep Michael’s (foreground) India career was the 2003 junior Asia Cup in which he was adjudged the most promising player. He scored in crunch games against teams like Pakistan and Korea.   -  AFP

Former India hockey player Sandeep Michael has passed away due to a brain infection here on Friday. He was 33.

Michael was admitted to Aster CMI Hospital here around five days ago. On Friday afternoon, he succumbed to the illness.

A talented forward, Michael won the ‘Most Promising Player’ award in the 2003 Asia Cup in Malaysia. Hockey Bengaluru secretary, K. Krishnamurthy, who was the Indian team manager for the tournament, said, “Michael received the ‘Most Promising Player’ award from none
other than the late Sultan Azlan Shah. Michael had the world at his feet.”

Michael grabbed the spotlight one more time that year, when he scored a brace against Australia ‘A’ in the tri-nation tournament at Sydney. His teammate in that match, Jugraj Singh, was shocked to hear of Michael’s demise. “This is a terribly sad day. I'd met him just a few months ago, when I came to Bengaluru with the national team. He was a genuine guy. Everyone liked him, because he was so friendly. As a player, Michael was tremendously talented. I still remember those two goals he scored against Australia ‘A’. He moved past three defenders and scored from zero angle. I would say it was the goal of the tournament. His dribbling was superb; he had all sorts of tricks up his sleeve,” Jugraj said.

Jugraj recalled an incident involving Michael in a national camp. “One day during the camp, Michael came back to the room after getting a huge tattoo of Jesus on his back. We were amazed at the size of the tattoo. He was in a lot of pain, so much so that he couldn’t sleep at
night. Yet, he remained cheerful and happy. We’ve shared many memories like this,” Jugraj said.

Interestingly, Michael featured in the junior India team for a brief while after making his senior debut. In 2004, Michael led the Indian team to the Junior Asia Cup gold medal. Though touted by many — including the legendary Dhanraj Pillay — as a bright prospect, injuries, a bout of jaundice, and a loss in form prevented Michael from achieving his full potential.

The Bengalurean started his club career with the BEL Colony Youth Association sides here before moving to BPCL and Air India. He also represented the Karnataka senior and junior teams with distinction.

In recent years, Michael coached at the KSHA Hockey Academy. A distressed Krishnamurthy stated that Michael often helped underprivileged wards by giving them free sports kits.