Sardar singS farewell  song... ADIOS

The year was 2006 and the then 19-year-old was at the national camp for the first time when Baskaran took him aside after seeing his skills during training.

Published: 13th September 2018 01:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th September 2018 03:51 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI : Mujhe midlfield mein khelna hai (I would like to play in midfield).”
As soon as Sardar Singh, then a young player hoping to make it to the national team, uttered those five words to V Baskaran, the World Cup winner realised that the country had a potential gem in its ranks.

The year was 2006 and the then 19-year-old was at the national camp for the first time when Baskaran took him aside after seeing his skills during training. “I think the first sentence he ever spoke to me was that request to play him in the midfield,” the 68-year-old told Express. “I instantly started liking him after he said that. Because that was a time when not many players liked having the ball. In fact, a few of the senior players were scared of the ball. But not this guy. He was still a kid, but his vision and passing range were outstanding. That was the thing that stood out for me.” 

After 367 matches, more than 13,000 minutes, 19 international goals and an Asian Games gold in 2014, the 32-year-old decided to step down with immediate effect (he will formally convey his decision during a press conference in New Delhi on Friday).

Sardar’s step is a consequence of him being left out of the 25-strong list of probables for the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy. A majority of those players will be retained for the World Cup in November. 
“I have decided to retire,” he said. “I have played enough hockey. Twelve years is a long time. It’s time for the future generation to take over. I took the decision after consultation with my family in Chandigarh, Hockey India and my friends. I think it’s the right time to think about life beyond hockey.”

It’s the last sentence that immediately catches one’s eye, because Sardar had a burning desire to continue playing for the national team. He had said so himself during the Asian Games in Jakarta. It’s pretty obvious to infer that he has been made a scapegoat for the team’s performances at the continental event. 

While that’s a story for another day, the Haryana star leaves the stage as one of the fiestiest fighters whom Indian sport has seen. Even when Hockey India (HI) made him captain for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year — a sort of golden handshake — the midfielder refused to accept his fate. He worked harder than ever before to come back into the reckoning. “I started introspecting when people said that I had slowed down,” he had told this newspaper back in July. “I made my mind a little bit stronger and convinced myself that I can keep playing more.”

Making promises is one thing, but acting on those is a completely different thing. Sardar hit the gym and looked abroad to see how world-class athletes maintain their bodies. In fact, he bettered his best yo-yo score weeks after the management dropped him from the Commonwealth Games squad. That was the way he responded to jibes of “slowpoke Sardar”. He travelled faster. That’s something he has always done throughout his career. One step ahead of teammates, who struggled to live with one of the few greats of the game in 21st-century India. 

While HI is yet to say anything on the matter — sources have indicated that Sardar hasn’t kept them in the loop — their press release on the next batch of probables spoke volumes. “(...) the squad will be looking to regroup with fresh perspective in the lead up to the World Cup.” Fresh perspective. In 2006, Sardar was fast-tracked to provide it. In 2018, he has been left out for the same.swaroop@newindianexpress.com

Nobody from Odisha in camp 
Odisha has nurtured some of India’s more renowned players but the latest set of core probables has zero representation from the state, whose capital city Bhubaneswar will host the 2018 World Cup from November. The likes of Biren Lakra and Amit Rohidas participated at the Asiad but both of them do not find a mention. The latter has been dropped while the former will undergo rehabilitation after sustaining an injury. Lakra, who is no stranger to injuries, could still make it to the WC squad but time is not his friend at the moment.

Core probables
Goalkeepers:
PR Sreejesh, Suraj Karkera, Krishan Pathak. Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Pardeep Singh. Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Sumit, Simranjit Singh, Nilankanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Vivek Sagar Prasad. Forwards: SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Sumit Kumar.

Stay up to date on all the latest Sport news with The New Indian Express App. Download now

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.