World Cup in mind, Sardar switches to conservation mode

Responsibility of captaincy off his shoulders, veteran midfielder intends to excercise discretion maintain prime fitness for key tournaments ahead

Published: 18th May 2017 05:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th May 2017 05:30 AM   |  A+A-

Indian hockey star Sardar Singh (File | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It was in July 2016 that responsibility of captaincy was removed from the shoulders of Sardar Singh. This after more than seven years as skipper of the senior Indian men’s hockey team. Many felt it was the right move, given he was struggling on and off the field.

And if performances at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, were anything to go by, it was the right call. For Sardar has seemed liberated.

“It doesn’t matter who’s the skipper,  for as long as the team does well, there will be no issues. It’s all about giving my one hundred and ten per cent every time I play. This team is an exciting blend of youth and experience, and we can achieve lots together,” Sardar told Express after getting back from a holiday with his family in Dubai.

Talk of the team invariably leads to the role of seniors like PR Sreejesh, Sardar, Rupinderpal Singh and SV Sunil.

“This team isn’t made up of any stars, and that’s the mindset we have. There have been around a dozen World Cup-winning juniors who’ve come in, and we’ve all gotten along really well. Our job as seniors is to help these youngsters to reach their potential, and guide them whenever possible.

You cannot forget that this is a talented bunch that has come in, and we all aspire to be the best in the world,” he noted.

Now 30, Sardar is not as agile or sharp as he used to be in his prime, when he was, without doubt, one of the best midfielders in the world. And fitness will also be a factor as he keeps himself ready for the challenges in the next 18 months.

“Of course, you need to take care of your body as you get older. The diet changes, and so is the way you train and go about physical activities. Hockey has become a fast game today, and the challenge is to stay fresh both physically and mentally. If that means resting your body every few tournaments, on the behest of the national federation or coach, then why not. There are able players who can deputise for you,” opined the Haryana police employee.

India’s next test will the 3 Nations Invitational Tournament in Dusseldorf, Germany from June 1 to 6, which will be followed by the World Hockey League Semifinals in London. “After every tournament that you play, there’ll be things to improve on. And you can only get better as a team by playing the best teams in the world, which will happen in the coming  few months. The boys are raring to go, and we want to do well,” he signed off.

Couple of headaches for Oltmans to sort out

CHENNAI: With PR Sreejesh out, coach Roelant Oltmans has a headache or two to sort out when announcing the team for the World League semifinal in London.

Akash Chikte might be first choice with Suraj Karkera as an option on the bench. There could also be a recall of sorts for Vikas Dahiya, the first goalkeeper at the Junior World Cup.

The more straightforward problem is that of the captain. Manpreet Singh, who had captained the team at Ipoh, could be the one to take India forward, especially with 2020 in mind.

raviiyer@newindianexpress.com

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