'Sandeep needs to improve'
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continues to be out of the Indian team despite emerging as the highest scorer in the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) with chief coach Michael Nobbs on Monday saying that the former skipper has to ‘reinvent’ himself as a defender if he desires to make a comeback to the national side.
Nobbs said penalty corner conversions alone can’t guarantee Sandeep a place in the national team as he has to improve his key area of the game, i.e. defence, by leaps and bounds to earn his spot back.
“He (Sandeep) might have scored 11 goals but you need to see how many penalty corners he has managed to utilise,” said Nobbs.
“The selectors were unanimous in their decision that he hasn’t improved in his key area. The players we have got at the moment are better than Sandeep. His job is to keep the goals away but he is lacking in that area,” he said.
“Everybody who has performed well here (in the HIL) has been rewarded with a place in the national team.
“But there is still opportunity for him to make a comeback. It’s a long season ahead. If he plays well and reinvents himself there is always an opportunity to get back into the team,” the Australian said.
Sandeep was not included in the Lanco International Super Series and Champions Trophy in Australia last November and has failed to make it to the Indian squad for the upcoming Hockey World League Round 2. His name figures only in the standby list.
Nobbs was of the view that the five-team HIL has been a blessing in disguise for Indian hockey. “I started to follow the league from the later stages. The league is fantastic. It is great for Indian hockey. An example is Mandeep Singh and his 10 field goals. It is a remarkable achievement for a young player like him,” he said.
“Malak Singh and Amit Rohidas are some other (promising) young players. Besides there are a lot of junior players who have played very good hockey against the top players in the world.”
Asked about the national team’s preparation for the Hockey World League 2 — in New Delhi from February 18 to 24 — Nobbs said: “We have got two really tough games. Ireland and China are not pushovers.”