Kids Corner


A Handful of Sardars Help Resuscitate Indian Hockey





Sandeep Singh can bring a dead match alive when he takes his position to slam a penalty corner. His drag-flicks have become a virtual patent and a sure shot to success, something fans eagerly look forward to.

He did that many times over against France in the Olympic Qualifying Men’s Hockey Tournament at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium here, propelling India into the London Olympics, after missing the Olympic bus to Beijing four years ago.

He contributed five goals in India’s 8-1 win; all through penalty corner conversions.

There was a huge vacuum in this department after Jugraj Singh met with a crippling road accident a few years ago. Jugraj was a match-winner, and he had great potential, but the messy car crash in Punjab cut short his international career. But Jugraj kept himself abreast with the game by playing it as best as he could, at the local and national levels. And now, his experience has come in handy to chisel the drag-flicks of Sandeep Singh, as India have at last found a hit-man, who can deliver goals with unerring accuracy.

But in his hour of triumph, Sandeep did not forget to remember chief coach Michael Nobbs, who has brought qualitative change in India’s fortune, and in coaching methods.

“Nobbs is the best coach I have worked with. He absorbs the pressure on himself, instead of putting the players under pressure. Nobbs ensures that the dressing room atmosphere is relaxed and stress free”, Sandeep said.

And the match against France was “one of the best I have ever played”.

Sandeep did not forget Jugraj’s contribution in improving his game, but Nobbs’ strategic thinking of “attack is the best defence”, has hugely paid off as the ploy mostly protected the suspect defence from caving in.

India won all the six matches in the Olympic qualifiers with conviction and courage, barring the one against Canada (3-2). That was a close call, but once again, Sandeep rose to the occasion to apply the knockout punch on the visitors.

Sandeep has a neat, clean style of hitting penalty corners, with quick-silver reflexes, without much flourish. And invariably, his drag-flicks and scoops strike bang on target, giving no room or time for the rival defence and keeper to react.

Sandeep had a success rate of 80 per cent with penalty corners, to tote up 16 goals out of India’s total tally of 44 goals, to emerge as the biggest scorer of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. His doughty display at the defence also played a big role in India conceding just nine goals in six matches.

But he alone could not have performed such miracles without the hard work put in by Sardar Singh in the mid-field. Sardar was a roving play-maker, who created moves, moved up to attack, and fell back to defend, as the occasion demanded. The vice-captain’s presence in the field was omnipresent, and it was just as well that he led the team to victory in the title clash against France, when regular captain Bharat Kumar Chetri was rested.

In one sweep action, Sardar sends the ball screeching towards to the top of the circle, where Sandeep quickly does the final kill. The entire operation is completed in one full sequence, instead of breaking it into parts.

Sandeep has had to battle many odds to come this far, as in 2006 when he got shot accidentally on his back in a train near Ambala, this boy from Shahabhad never thought that he would hold a hockey stick again. But after battling for two years, he got back on his feat, and into the hockey field. But then, he faced another kind of trial - problems with the hockey administrators on ground of discipline. He escaped a two-year ban for walking out of the national camp to attend a press conference held by the World Series Hockey only after he gave a written reply to Hockey India.

[Courtesy: Tribune]

February 28, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), February 28, 2012, 2:28 PM.

Punjab needs to hold international hockey tournaments to hone the skills of its boys and girls.

2: Manjot (New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 28, 2012, 7:34 PM.

It's not fair that the Indian Hockey Committee is taking Rajpal Singh out of the Olympics. This is absurd.

3: Raj (Canada), February 28, 2012, 11:38 PM.

Majority of these Sikh boys came from the Naamdhari community. These guys had synthetic turf in their village even before any other stadium in Punjab. No wonder, years of their dedication is paying off now.

4: Harjinder Singh (Kalala, Punjab), February 29, 2012, 7:45 AM.

I wish that people who (mis-)managed hockey in India acknowledge this fact that the contribution of Sikhs to World Hockey and especially to hockey in India is huge and stop treating talented players like Rajpal Singh habbily.

5: Gurinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), August 03, 2012, 3:22 AM.

Nobbs had earlier ruined the Olympic dream of seniors like Arjun Hallapa and Rajpal Singh and now ruined the chances of Indian hockey doing well at the Olympics. Seniors were removed due to alleged lack of fitness and now he is blaming the current failure to fitness itself. Rubbish.

6: Sourav Banerjee (Asansol, Iindia), August 12, 2012, 1:48 AM.

Rajpal Singh is a great player. Dropping our best players has put us at the bottom in the London Olympics. They have to give the captaincy back to the best captain we have had in recent times, S. Rajpal Singh, and drop the dead weight.

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