If Major Dhyan Chand is considered as the pioneer of Indian hockey, Sandeep Singh the poster boy, then Sardara Singh is the heart and soul of the modern hockey game. The 32-year-old halfback (defensive midfielder in football) is the youngest captain in Indian hockey history and is the recipient of country’s fourth highest civilian award, The Padma Shri. The veteran, however, has struggled to keep up with the ever-changing game and hence struggled to get a place in the squad in recent times. Hockey today is more about speed which is amalgamated with technique.
Sadly, speed was never Sardara’s USP and this was the reason the former Indian hockey head coach Sjoerd Marijne had dropped him from the squad. But Sardara has always been known for his touches and vision.
After finding it difficult to break into the national side, it was time for him to either evolve or perish. And, Sardara chose the hard way of evolving. In an interview with The Indian Express, Sardara said that he was scared after getting dropped. It felt as if everything was over. There is no use of money and cars if there is no ‘hockey’. It is then he decided that he will work so hard that no one can say that ‘Sardara is not fit’.
And, boy did he get fit! The 32-year-old scored a better yo-yo test score than the young and fit Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. The Indian skipper who has been vocal about fitness scored a total of 19 in his yo-yo test while the old warhorse, Sardara scored 21.4.
The former Indian hockey captain has been training like a maniac for past four months. And with a stroke of luck and a little help from team’s misfortune, Sardara found himself back into the side. He will be going to Jakarta for the upcoming Asian Games 2018 to defend the title he won four years ago in Incheon.
With Harender Singh as the new head coach, it was inevitable to keep the Indian mastermind out of the team. His return has helped the Blue colts fill the void in the midfield when Manpreet Singh is not on the field.
At the CWG 2018, the lack of distribution from the midfield was very evident and the campaign proved to be a disaster. Now, with Sardara back into the squad, Harender will have the luxury to have at least one midfielder on-field at all times. Harender in an interview said: “Also, I can make Manpreet play a little forward so he can support the attack. It brings a lot of balance to the team.”
India will be going as the favourites to win the gold after their performance in Incheon. A gold in Jakarta will ensure qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.