Hockey India has chosen a captain, Arjun Halappa, for the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. It’s heartening to know they do take decisions. The last time a few voices came out of the offices of Hockey India was when the secretary, Mr Narinder Batra, said they would take action against Sardara Singh and Sandeep Singh for playing in the European League.
Both these players, Sardara, who was part of the Asian All Stars and Sandeep, the top scorer in the Asian Games, are key to India’s hockey campaign and Olympic qualification. Deleting both of them from the Azlan Shah team smacks of misplaced arrogance with no links to reality. But then when was Indian hockey realistic?
Hockey India should be glad that two players are at least playing competitive hockey and not sitting at home or attending meaningless camps under coaches who probably have exhausted their bag tricks. In the real world of sport, coaches are always looking forward to players playing in foreign leagues so that in tough competition, the players can pass on some tips when playing European teams. Both these players are acquiring firsthand knowledge of European teams by playing in the Belgian League.
It’s a little difficult to understand why players can’t be counseled. Hockey India says they didn’t take a NOC from the federation. Yes, there are rules and they should be followed. What is perplexing is how did the Belgian League accept two of India’s top players without an NOC from the Indian federation? Europeans are known to be stringent when it comes to rules. Or are these two players paying the price for being at the forefront when Nimbus announced the World Series Hockey with the Indian Hockey Federation? It’s not Hockey India’s loss. It’s Indian hockey’s loss. For years, Indian hockey has been losing players. In the way, the coaches have reacted or not reacted, nobody really cares whether India performs at the Azlan or not. Ego massage is the need of the hour not enhancing performance levels.
Well, the news is most of the top players are either injured or not being selected to represent the country. Former captain Rajpal Singh and Tushar Khandekar are out with injury. Sandeep Singh and Sardara Singh did the mistake of playing in a competitive league. Bharat Chikara didn’t report for the camp on medical grounds and Prabodh Tirkey also opted out. A bit of good news is that former deep defender William Xalxo may return to the team.
The final list for the Azlan Shah will be named on April 19th. The other nations participating in the Azlan Shah are: Hosts Malaysia, World Champions Australia, Asian Games champions Pakistan, South Korea, Great Britain and New Zealand.