CHENNAI: Established sportspersons the world over have had to make minor to major adjustments apropos their position on the field.
This happens due to a variety of reasons – age, change in personnel and so on. One of the recent high profile changes was that of Wayne Rooney who was shifted from a No 9 to a No 6, spraying passes from the middle of midfield (Jose Mourinho is not a fan). Closer home, hockey team skipper Sardar Singh, who has been a magisterial presence in midfield for a few years, may have to accept a move away from his favoured position to retain his influence.
It has been felt for sometime that Sardar isn’t the presence he used to be — dribbling past opponents like they were traffic cones and exercising his authority on the game like no other Indian has done in recent memory — and so the first moves were made by the think tank to push him up top. He was played as a striker at the World Hockey League Final but then it was just filed under ‘an experiment’. That theory was given further weight when he was played up front at the Six Nations tournament last week. He scored against Ireland in a come-from-behind win but he may have to accept his new role.
And it does look like Sardar may have to adapt as younger Manpreet Singh excelled in the middle during the Champions Trophy. While Rupinderpal Singh, one of the key members of the team, refused to talk about whether Manpreet will make that role his own, he opined Sardar popping up as a forward was the coach trying a few things. “We were just trying different things and I would say the experiment to play Sardar up top was a success as he scored,” he said to Express. “Obviously the final decision of who will play where lies with the coach.”
Sardar is still a very important member but his powers are slowly beginning to diminish. The main point is a feeling that he slows down the tempo when he plays there. That point gained credence during India’s last two tournaments – the Champions Trophy silver (without Sardar) and Six Nations (one win in five, with Sardar). India served up one of its best ever tournament performances in the former, culminating with a gut-wrenching shootout loss in the final against Australia. In the latter, they were lacking sharpness. And coach Roelant Oltmans touched on that point during the tournament. Subtle hints that Sardar may have to adapt his game going forward.