Need for speed? Can work on that, says Sardar

Veteran Indian hockey star Sardar Singh feels modern sport is all about fitness and is raring to make a comeback to the Indian side.

Sardar Singh is probably closely following Roger Federer’s progress at the Australian Open these days. Despite being 36, the Swiss great – one of the favourites for the title at Melbourne Park – continues to inspire the former Indian hockey captain as he looks to extend his international career.

Sardar, currently 31, feels he has a few more years of hockey in him but despite being one of the country’s few world-class players in the last six or seven years, he needs to frequently keep convincing the men who matter that he is still a force to reckon with.

The seasoned midfielder did not find a place in the Indian team for the Hockey World League Finals in Bhubaneswar in December and also was ignored for the four-nation tournament currently on in New Zealand.

However, Sardar is not perturbed. In fact, he does not even see the New Zealand miss as a case of being dropped but as an opportunity to try out youngsters.

“With the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Champions Trophy, Asian Champions Trophy and the World Cup all lined up, this is a very busy year. So, we are trying out many new players,” said Sardar in a chat with Sportstar after opening the Maharaja Agrasen Sports Meet in Kochi.

If there was any disappointment, he masked it nicely saying, “These tournaments are not really important. I’ve been playing continuously for the last 12 years, I’ve got almost 300 India caps. So, when you play for that long, rest is very important. I have to work harder on my fitness for the big ones.”

The talk running around is that despite his skill and experience, Sardar has been dropped as there is a push for faster legs in the Indian team, that his leg speed is not enough for the fast-paced world of modern hockey.

Sardar takes it very positively. “When people tell you something, that’s good, that’s what I like … I can improve on that, try to get faster,” said Sardar who led the Indian team to gold at the last Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

Incidentally, he was also India’s youngest-ever captain when he led the team at the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in 2008. He was 21 then. So, how long does he think he can go on… does he see himself playing at 35?

“It’s really hard because in modern hockey, everything depends on your fitness. But if you see Teun de Nooijer, one of Holland’s finest players who retired about a year ago, and Australia great Jamie Dwyer, they played till about 35-36, so it’s up to you.”

“I have a lot of experience, if I can take care of my body recovery, I can go longer.

“Age does not matter, you look at Roger Federer… today sport is all about fitness.”