He may have been dubbed slow by critics and ignored for the recent Commonwealth Games but the popularity of Sardar Singh popularity and his leadership remains unchallenged. And the 31-year old former captain may just find himself back in the mix when a 55-member huge group assembles for the next national men's hockey camp in Bengaluru starting April 27.

The group would be pruned to 48 after trials on May 2-3 and Sardar's future might well depend on that but for now, he would certainly be reporting for the camp with High Performance Director David John confirming the same to Sportstar here on Thursday. In fact, out-of-favour forward Ramandeep Singh is also expected to be in the camp.

“The initial group is huge because we have added players from the National Championships to the mix. Once it is reduced to 48, they will then be divided into two groups of 24 each, making up the national core and the developmental squad,” John explained.

Which means that, if Sardar does make it to the 48, he is likely to be part of the core squad for the upcoming tournaments, including the Champion Trophy and the Asian Games.

While John insisted that the team did not lack experience as was being out and there was no need to drastically alter the overall structure of the team despite the disappointing outing in Gold Coast, he did admit some changes would be made.

“I would not say there was lack of experience. Only two players — Vivek Sagar Prasad and Dilpreet Singh — were young but every player in the 33-member core had played two tournaments in the past 6-8 months. We had our chances in every game but could not grab them. But yes, some players could not perform under pressure and we need to look at that,” he said.

The women's camp, meanwhile, would begin from April 22 with 61 players that would also be pruned to 48. “The women play five tournaments in five months, including the World Cup and the Asian Games spaced just one week apart! It is crazy scheduling and we will have to see how to rotate the players and manage the workload because both the events are important,” he said.

Hockey 5s in Olympics?

John spoke on the sidelines of a mixed-team Hockey 5s exhibition game here that found approval from IOC president Thomas Bach. Sources confirmed that IOC was keen in including a hockey mixed team event in the Olympic programme, in line with its emphasis on gender equality, and the Hockey 5s was ideal. “Hockey 5s is already part of the Youth Olympics but with separate men's and women's teams. We had exhibition matches during the last National Hockey 5s that were webcast live on the IOC's Olympic Channel. We are looking at 2024 but let's see,” officials said.