NEW DELHI: Ever since Hockey India barred Pakistan players from taking part in the Hockey India League, every event has started with a common question: should Pakistani players be allowed to play?
So far, Hockey India has firmly stood its ground, making it clear the neighbours will only be allowed if the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) apologises for their misbehaviour at the 2014’s Champions Trophy. On Thursday, as the six captains took stage to unveil the league trophy, India skipper Sardar Singh too backed HI’s move, saying that Pakistan players should only be allowed if they apologise.
In an exclusive chat with Express, Sardar, who will be leading Punjab Warriors, spoke on a range of issues. Excerpts…
Despite some good performances, Delhi Waveriders flattered to deceive last season. Now, as captain of Punjab Warriors, what is going to be your strategy?
It’s good to play for your home state. In Punjab, hockey is quite popular and ever since I have taken charge, the excitement has gone up further. This time, we have a lot of Australian players in the team and that is a good thing. Australians have an attacking style of play, so they’ll help improve our game. Coaches have also told us to go on the attack rather than worry about defence. In the last two editions, Punjab played well but couldn’t reach the final. This time, as captain, my target will be to win the title.
This being an Olympic year, all players will be cautious about fitness. Will such an approach affect their performances in HIL?
Yes, they will be alert. But then, there’s still seven months left for the Olympics. The players, however, need to keep themselves fit and healthy as HIL requires a lot of travelling. After HIL, there’s a two-week break and then the camp will begin. After that, there will a lot of tournaments, so players will be put to test.
Do you think that Pakistan players should have been allowed to participate in the HIL?
Pakistani players are very good. Their absence from the Olympics is a big loss for international hockey. People love watching India-Pakistan games, but their attitude in the last Champions Trophy was unacceptable. They behaved in an obscene manner, and that was not in the right spirit of the game. They didn’t apologise, which again is unacceptable. They should apologise to Hockey India, and only after that should we talk about participation.
Coming back to the meet; what is your take on the new rule, according to which each field goal will count as two?
Initially, it will be tough, but the rule is same for all. It is an interesting thought, and all teams will try to score more field goals. I think it’s an innovative idea and should be supported.
Nikkin to miss first few games
Recovering from an injury, Dabang Mumbai captain Nikkin Thimmaiah is set to miss the first few games. “I’m still recovering from the injury, and it would not be right to rush things. I will play in the second leg,” Thimmaiah told Express. The senior player agrees that in an Olympic year, it is important to be physically fit.