Sardar: 'Thought my India career was over'

Sardar Singh believed his international career was finished when he was left out of the Indian men’s hockey team for the Commonwealth Games, the player has admitted.

Sardar Singh at the SAI in Bengaluru on Friday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Sardar Singh believed his international career was finished when he was left out of the Indian men’s hockey team for the Commonwealth Games, the player has admitted.

Sardar was omitted from the teams for the HWL Final and the New Zealand tour last year, before being snubbed for the Commonwealth Games in April. “When the CWG team was named and I was not even on stand-by, I packed all my belongings and took them home,” he said at the SAI here on Friday. “I thought I was not coming back to the camp again. Because nobody told me anything. It would've been nice if the previous coach had spoken to me once.”

The 31-year-old was recalled to the Asian Games squad, though, when Harendra Singh replaced Sjoerd Marijne as the men's coach. “I’m happy to be back. When I was watching the CWG from the outside, I realised how much I missed being in the India jersey. Obviously, I was sad. The CWG comes once in four years. It's not like cricket, where if you are dropped for one series, there is another in 10 days' time,” he said.

Sardar disagreed with the idea that his fitness was on the decline. “I’m absolutely fit,” he stated. “Tests are being conducted in the camp – look at the results. My speed has been the same from the beginning. And people say I'm slow. People ask: ‘What happened to Sardar's passes?’ They're right to expect that. But when a new coach comes in, and there are new players who have played only 10 games, it's not easy to develop that chemistry. I don't use the backhand pass anymore, because it doesn't work if you don't have an instinctive understanding with the other player. That takes time.”

Sardar welcomed Harendra's appointment as coach. “Fifteen years ago, my first junior camp was under Harendra sir,” he said. “Since he came, a new confidence has entered the camp. We are united. At the Champions Trophy, there was a fighting spirit in us. He told me: 'I don't need to teach you hockey. You need to lead everyone on the ground. That's your responsibility.' People say Indian coaches are not good. It's our responsibility now to prove them wrong.”

Women's hockey team to be considered for TOP scheme based on its World Cup and Asian Games performances

The Sports Authority of India's Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) recently included the men's hockey team in the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme, which entitles them to an out-of-pocket allowance of Rs.50,000 a month, leading up to the Asian Games. The women, however, will only be considered for inclusion based on their World Cup and Asian Games performances.

Sjoerd Marijne, chief coach of the women's team, has expressed his disappointment with the decision, believing that recent results entitled them to more. "We are feeling let down, yes," he said. "The women won the Asia Cup (Nov. 2017), were runners-up at the Asian Champions Trophy (May 2018) and finished the way they were ranked at the CWG (fourth), playing really well. I don't understand this but then I'm a foreigner."
It was not about the money, Marijne insisted. "That's not why they play. It's about creating a legacy. Money only lasts for a few years but your legacy lasts all your life."-- Shreedutta Chidananda

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :