Sandeep, Sardar to face action

HI calls for meeting later this week; Raghunath, Vikas replacements

The duo, which has been consistently hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons, left the national team’s preparations for the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in complete disarray following Tuesday’s desertion.

“We won’t take this matter lightly,” said an irked Batra. “It is a serious disciplinary issue because it is the third time they have repeated such an offence. I will call a meeting of the disciplinary committee on August 26 or 27 to discuss this issue. We will discuss the matter in detail and I will leave it to them to decide what action needs to be taken against the erring duo.”

Disciplinary committee chairman Pargat Singh, player representatives Rajneesh Mishra and Mukesh Kumar, coach Michael Nobbs and the two government observers in the selection committee, Harvinder Singh and Dilip Tirkey, will be present in the meeting.

Although Haryana cops Sardar and Sandeep have escaped censure in the past, it is reliably learnt that their latest act might shut the door on their India careers permanently. In his report to HI, camp chief co-ordinator and assistant coach SS Grewal has recommended strong action, saying such indiscipline cannot be tolerated.

“Discipline is paramount and there is no place for those who are indisciplined,” a fuming Grewal said on Wednesday. “In a team sport, one should always put the team ahead of self. What Sardar and Sandeep have done cannot be pardoned. We don’t want them back in the team.”

Nobbs, who refrained from revealing what his recommendations to the federation would be, stressed that he would rather have young blood to work with. “For the foreseeable future, they (Sardar and Sandeep) have no place in the team,” said the Australian.

“The young kids are the future and the quicker we develop them, the quicker India moves ahead. At this stage, that is exactly what we will do. No matter what the result in China is, we will promote youth. I am completely disappointed at Sardar and Sandeep’s actions.”

Sardar and Sandeep first created a stir when they shunned the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup conditioning camp in April this year, choosing instead to play in the Belgian league. The duo then joined forces with Arjun Halappa, Adrian D’Souza and Prabhjot Singh to attend a World Series Hockey press conference in Mumbai midway through the first national camp despite being denied permission.

The HI had allowed the five players to rejoin the camp after slapping a show-cause notice, but the latest episode has left a bitter taste and HI is taking a serious view of this misdemeanour.

Batra blamed the Indian Hockey Federation, with which HI has been at loogerheads for a long time now, for the mess. “There are reports emerging that the IHF is playing all these back-room games. If these sort of things continue, we will not be able to qualify for the Olympics, which is exactly what the IHF wants,” said Batra.

HI moved swiftly to fill the lacunae created by the deserting duo by naming their replacements for the ACT. Karnataka’s drag-flicker VR Raghunath and Uttar Pradesh’s Vikas Sharma have come in for Sandeep and Sardar respectively.

Raghunath was the leading goal-scorer in the Senior Nationals this May, while Vikas will have huge shoes to fill in the central midfield position.

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