Sardar, Sreejesh determined to reclaim spot

The duo personifies the fightback of a previous generation against up and coming newcomers.

Sardar Singh is happy with the rotation policy adopted by the new coach Sjoerd Marijne.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

One has been out of action for almost a year with injury, struggling to get back on his feet and prove he is still the best at what he does. The other is fighting against both age and perception for a spot in the national side.

Together, P.R. Sreejesh and Sardar Singh personify the fightback of a generation of Indian hockey players against newcomers keen to make their mark.

READ: Our focus is on winning Asian Games and WC, says Marijne

Out of the team for the past two outings, Sardar is nevertheless confident of being part of the side at least till the World Cup later this year.

“I said it before that I want to continue till the Olympics. There are no major tournaments in 2019 for us apart from Olympic preparation. I will be playing proper hockey this year till the World Cup,” the 31-year-old midfielder said.

Sardar played at the triumphant Asia Cup last year but has been bypassed for younger, fitter competitors since then. “My body is fine. There is no lacking on the fitness part. There are 30-34 players in the core probables and it is good that now every player is getting a chance,” Sardar said.

READ: Odisha government to sponsor India’s hockey team

Sreejesh remains one of the most popular players in the side. His injury-forced absence from the turf hasn't affected his optimism either.

“As players, you often get too focussed on the game, the team, the field. You forget there is life outside as well. This time away has helped me realise what it means to be a father and also given me a glimpse into what life can be after hockey,” he said.

He injured himself during the Azlan Shah tournament and came back only during the recent tour of New Zealand. “This is a new Sreejesh, I have totally changed and I don’t want to be what I was, I want to be better than that now. I feel I am totally ready. The CWG will give a better idea,” he said.

New sponsor, new logo

The event marked Odisha government’s coming on board as the new chief sponsor of the national men’s and women’s teams and unveiling of the new logo and team jerseys, replacing Sahara.

While it is a first-of-its kind association with a state sponsoring the national side for the next five years, it would also be the first time since 1995 the Sahara group would not be associated with the sport.