When Sardar packed his bags in agony

ON A COMEBACK TRAIL Former Indian captain Sardar Singh revealed that he was hurt when the coaching staff stayed silent on his axing. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

Last November was one of the lowest points in Sardar Singh's life. It was perhaps the first time the midfield maestro was dropped from a major event -- the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Bhubaneswar.

Things then went from bad to worse for the 300-cap veteran as he was axed from the Commonwealth Games squad in March. The two blows hit the 31-year-old so hard he almost packed his bags in frustration, contemplating quitting.

"I had missed important tournaments in the last few months -- CWG and HWL Final. In the last 10 years, I hadn't got to learn much off the pitch. But when I was watching the CWG from the outside, I missed the India jersey a lot. I learnt a lot during that phase. When the CWG team was leaving, I was not even among the stand-by players. I had
packed all my belongings and taken them home. I was not sure I'd come back to the camp again," Sardar, back in the mix of things, admitted at the SAI Centre here on Friday.

"The CWG comes once in four years. It's a dream for any player to play in such tournaments. It's not like cricket, where if you are dropped for one series, there is one more in 10 days' time. In hockey, if you miss a big event like the CWG or the Olympics, you have to wait four more years. Four years is a long time. For whatever reason, the coaches took their decision and chose the best 18 players according to them. I accepted it. I went away. Of all the things I missed, I missed the India jersey the most."

Sardar, picked for next month's Asian Games, said what hurt him the most was coaching staff's utter silence on his axing. "I even thought my career was over because nobody told me anything. When I missed the first tour, I thought my name would be there in the next. Then I missed that one too. Then the one after that as well. At Azlan Shah, none of the coaches told me anything. It would've been nice if the previous coach (Sjoerd Marijne) had spoken to me once. For any athlete, it is nice to be given an honest explanation."

The major reason cited for Sardar's axing was his dwindling speed levels. The former skipper, one of the most hardworking players, said the chopping and changing of coaches has a deterrent effect on one's game. "I'm totally fit. We are being tested consistently in the camp. From the beginning, this has been my speed and people feel I'm slow. People say what happened to Sardar's passes? And they're right to expect that. But they have to understand that when you work with a new coach, he has different expectations of you. And when new players come into the team, say a player who has played only 10 games, it's not easy to develop an understanding with him.

"My backhand passes used to be effective earlier. Now I don't use it at all because it's producing no results. When you have new players, you need to sit with them and make them understand your idea. We need to play with them and discuss off the field. Modern hockey is very fast -- you only have a fraction of a second to make passes and eye-contact between players is very important. You need time to develop that chemistry with new players."

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When Sardar packed his bags in agony


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