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Sardar Singh set to retire from international hockey
From the Webdesk, 13/09/2018, Mumbai

Hours after he was left out of the core group of players for the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy and the World Cup on Wednesday, former India captain Sardar Singh gave enough indications of calling it a day.

Sardar, who was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna last year and is one of the most decorated stars of Indian hockey, is likely to announce his retirement from internationals later this week at a press conference here.

Sardar was part of the Indian team at the recent Asian Games where it finished third. However, calls for his exclusion have been gaining ground claiming he had slowed down with age. At 32, Sardar is not only the senior-most player in the side but also the fittest as per tests held just before the Asiad.

However, that didn’t stop certain Hockey India officials from claiming India lost the semifinal against Malaysia because of him and the constant questioning of his abilities played a big role in Sardar’s decision.

While Sardar himself refused to say anything officially — “I am still discussing everything with my family and will be coming to Delhi likely on Friday. Only then will I make an official statement,” he told The Hindu — people close to him admitted he was as disappointed as the rest of the team on missing out on gold at the Asiad but was more upset about being made the scapegoat.

National coach Harendra Singh confirmed he had spoken to Sardar about the decision.

“For me, he will always be a legend of the game, not just in India but in world hockey. But this is his personal decision and I respect that. There will definitely be a vacuum in his absence, as happens whenever such a big player retires, and his will be big boots to fill. I am sure he will continue to be associated with the game in future also, in a different role but with equal passion,” Harendra told The Hindu.

Sardar had been dropped for the Commonwealth Games earlier this year with Hockey India favouring youngsters but fought his way back into the side for the Champions Trophy, where India won a second successive silver, and the Asian Games.

With India hosting the World Cup at the end of this year and the road ahead to Tokyo Olympics long and winded with a complex qualification process, Sardar’s experience would have been handy for the team. As such, Indian hockey will now have to do without it.

K. Keerthivasan & Samarnath Soory report:

V.R. Raghunath: “I think the decision might have be working on his mind for the past few months. It has been tough for him. When you feel your body and mind cannot give 100%, I think it is the best time to announce retirement and give way for the next generation. He could have played till the World Cup and then announced his retirement. We have played together since 2003 and enjoyed a lot of success. I wish him the best.”

Rahul Singh: “The announcement has not come at the right time. The World Cup is just round the corner and it is always better to have a senior like him in the team. He could have been used in short bursts. He has served the country in an excellent way and has achieved everything.”

V. Baskaran: “I think he has taken the right decision. For me, he is the best player since Ajit Pal Singh. Sumit is the right man to replace him as he is already in the core group and has played alongside Sardar.



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