Sardar, Sandeep desert team on 'personal grounds'

Experienced duo leaves coach Nobbs in the lurch ahead of ACT

The duo, who along with three others had created a storm in the first phase when they deserted the camp to attend a World Series Hockey press conference, thus left the team’s preparations for the Asian Champions Trophy (September 3-11) in disarray again.

In a dramatic development on Monday night, star midfielder Sardar approached camp co-ordinator and assistant coach SS Grewal, informing him of his decision to quit not just the camp but the sport itself as he was ‘mentally disturbed’. After Grewal asked Sardar to reconsider his decision, the Haryana Police player and room-mate Sandeep approached chief coach Michael Nobbs.

While Sardar told the Australian of his intention to quit the game immediately, Sandeep said he too would be leaving on Tuesday morning as his son was sick.

“What can I say?” was Nobbs’ first reaction when queried about their surprise departure.

“The duo just come to my room, one says he is quitting and the other flashes his flight ticket and says he will be leaving tomorrow (Tuesday) morning because his child is not keeping well. I have no idea what is going on back door.

“After they rejoined the camp, I thought they had realised their mistake. But they don’t seem to have. When you step on the field wearing your country colours, you need to be proud of yourself.”

As has become customary, Hockey India officials remained unavailable for comment, with its executive director Anupam Gulati saying any official statement would come from secretary-general Narendra Batra.

Sources revealed that Sandeep threw a huge fit after the national team wrapped up its practice match against Army XI at the MEG grounds on Monday. The star drag-flicker kept complaning that the water served to the players was contaminated even as the rest of the squad had no problems.

Grewal said Sardar had expressed his displeasure about having to play under re-instated captain Rajpal Singh, and his discomfiture was evident since lasat Tuesday, when the team for the ACT was named.

“Sardar and Rajpal have not been on talking terms for a while now,” Grewal conceded.

“Ever since Rajpal was made captain, Sardar has not been playing to his best of his abilities. The divide between them is so obvious.”

The exit of these two players -- especially the dynamic Sardar -- has thrown Nobbs’ Olympic plans in disarray but the Australian remained confident youngsters would use the opportunity to cement their places.

“Their quitting will set us back, Sardar in particular as he is a class player. But when you give young people the chance to prove something, they often grab it. They don’t have egos; they just get out there and play and give 100 percent. That’s what I’m hoping for from all these young kids. Olympic qualification is still the goal and we will strive hard to achieve that.”

The coach, who said the duo will face the consequences for their indisciplined act, felt finding replacements for the Asian Champions Trophy won’t be much of an headache.

“The group of 24 has been training with us since July 1. (VR) Raghunath has scored more goals than Sandeep from penalty corners in the National Championship. He’s a capable player. We’ve got Rupinder (Pal Singh) as well. They both are excellent drag-flickers and will get their chances.”

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