‘Thought my India career was over’

Sardar Singh reiterates that he is as fit as ever, welcomes Harendra’s appointment

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 also omitted from the teams for the HWL Final and the New Zealand tour last year, before being snubbed for the CWG 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.”

Sad at being left out

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.”

New confidence

Sardar welcomed Harendra’s appointment. “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.”

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