A star in the making

A player with all-round skills... Gurjinder Singh of Chandigarh Comets (left) baulks Rafeeq S. M. of Chennai Cheetahs in a WSH match.-S.R. RAGHUNATHAN A player with all-round skills... Gurjinder Singh of Chandigarh Comets (left) baulks Rafeeq S. M. of Chennai Cheetahs in a WSH match.

With his composure at the top of the circle, a clear approach and a smooth style, Gurjinder Singh picked his spot cleanly while executing penalty corners. The honours he received on the final day of the 2012 WSH — the Golden Stick award for being the joint top-scorer and the WSH Rockstar award — made him the talking point of the tournament. By Nandakumar Marar.

Gurjinder Singh is a gift to Indian hockey from WSH (World Series Hockey). The 18-year-old drag flicker from Chandigarh Comets was simply astounding in the 2012 WSH, scoring 19 goals in 16 matches to be the joint top-scorer in the tournament along with Imran Warsi of Pakistan. He was adjudged the ‘Most Valuable Player' of the tournament.

With his composure at the top of the circle, a clear approach and a smooth style, Gurjinder picked his spot cleanly while executing penalty corners. The honours he received on the final day of the 2012 WSH — the Golden Stick award for being the joint top-scorer and the WSH Rockstar award — made him the talking point of the tournament. He showed that Indian youngsters, when given the opportunity to play in the big league of senior pros from around the world, can rise up to the challenge.

It is for the system in the country to find ways to assimilate exceptional performers like Gurjinder into the larger talent pool.

Thanks to WSH, Gurjinder is now worth more than a crore. According to Harender Singh, former India defender and the coach of Chandigarh Comets, during the National camp in New Delhi last year, Gurjinder had to borrow shoes for running and playing from him. “I knew him as a Chandigarh Academy player — a talented youngster who needed exposure to the big stage. So I called him for the Azlan Shah camp. He came without proper shoes and so I lent him mine. Gurjinder missed a spot on the Indian team very narrowly then. When WSH started I joined Chandigarh Comets as coach and there was no way Gurjinder could be denied a place,” Harender said.

Gurjinder is happy with the way things have gone for him in WSH. “At such a young age, I earned more in WSH than what my seniors have after playing for years,” he said.

For Gurjinder, son of a farmer, sharing the WSH top scorer award with an established international player like Warsi is a dream come true.

Pakistan striker Rehan Butt, the skipper of Chandigarh Comets, was all praise for Gurjinder, saying he could become another big drag flicker like Sandeep Singh.

Harender is emphatic about Gurjinder's all-round utility. “He can handle one-on-one situations deftly with his tackling ability; can steal the ball from forwards and use the lob pass to launch attacks,” he said.

“WSH is to hockey what IPL is to cricket when it comes to putting players in pressure situations,” noted Harender. “Youngsters who have performed well in IPL are considered competent enough to be tried for India because they have handled the pressure. It is similar in WSH. Youngsters gain in confidence by sharing the dressing room with world-class players such as Rehan Butt and by playing in front of big crowds in huge stadiums,” he added.

Harender views WSH as a victory for hockey. “Now, we have a bigger pool of players to choose from. Each franchise in WSH has at least two or three outstanding youngsters who will only get sharper after going through National camps. Then in Gurjinder we have one who became a ‘crorepati' in 45 days. The message is positive. It is possible to make a living out of hockey,” he pointed out.