On 21 March, the Indian hockey team for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) had been announced. Besides the usual suspects, there were a couple of newcomers – Dilpreet Singh and Vivek Prasad. But most news establishments ran with the headline: Sardar Singh axed as Hockey India announce 18-member squad. The Times of India headlined: Sardar, Ramandeep dropped for varied reasons. The Indian Express wrote: Old hand Sardar Singh loses out to fresh legs in hockey squad for CWG 2018 while The Hindustan Times said Sardar Singh axed, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh makes comeback.
There were no questions asked. And neither were there any queries when Sardar was sent as captain to the 2018 Sultan Azlan Shah, captaining a team destined and doomed to fail. Almost half the senior team had been rested. It was taken for granted that a 31-year-old had developed the legs of a 60-year-old. It was also conveniently forgotten that midfielders, creators in sport, also used their Cerebellum or brain as we call it; legs are just one part of a hockey player’s physicality. Otherwise, most sprinters could easily have second careers as field hockey players.
Something else also happened on 21 March. Sardar congratulated the team going to the Gold Coast and put a call through to the Grand Hyatt in Chandigarh. He confirmed that his membership was still intact and then said he would be using the gym for an extra hour every day and the pool in the morning and evening. Sitting on 298 matches after the 4-1 win over Ireland at the Azlan Shah tournament, he wanted to reach 300 Internationals; the burning desire, however, was to make a comeback, prove the detractors wrong and tell the critics he wasn’t finished as a player. “I knew that I could play and contribute,” he said a few days after the CWG team was announced. “But I am perplexed and very confused why I have been left out.”