Former captain of Indian men’s hockey team Sardar Singh hung up his hockey stick two years ago in September 2018. He is now interchanging between his roles between a DSP with the Haryana Police and a selector of Hockey India (HI). The 34-year-old who was diagnosed with coronavirus recently has been spending his quarantine at home in Chandigarh raring to finish his police training once the pandemic situation improves.
In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge over the telephone, Sardar opened up about his life in quarantine, his dreams and also about the current hockey team who have had a good run in the season at the Hockey Pro League. “Life seems a bit slowed down because of the pandemic. I was engaged in my regular police training, which took a halt in after COVID tests were conducted in our academy. I was tested positive without any symptom in particular, so I went back to my home. Once this period is over, I will resume my training in the police,” said Sardar.
On a regular day, his morning starts with a parade and physical training drills in the academy, followed by classes in weapons, investigation theory and law. In the current situation, he also gets to learn new lessons in handling the lockdown.
The two-time Olympian veteran who has represented India in over 300 international matches believes the current Indian team is poised well to have extraordinary performances in the coming days and are capable of winning a medal at the Olympics. Sardar says, “The Indian men’s hockey team ranks 4th in the world. The team has practised hard with some of the best coaches and trainers in the world and you can see the result. They are giving tough time to the world-beaters and certainly is among the best teams. On a given day, all the players should perform well, a collective effort, which would earn them a medal in the Olympics. They simply have to work hard on the ground and strategise each and every move cautiously.”
Sardar walked into the sunset after a stellar 12-year career during which he not only established himself as a face of Indian hockey but also as a global star. He played hockey like a king who led India to Asian Games gold in Incheon (2014) besides two bronze medals in 2010 and 2018. He won two Commonwealth Games silver, a historic silver in the Champions Trophy (2018 Breda), two Asia Cup titles and numerous other trophies.
His legacy remains as a talismanic midfielder who played the game on his own terms with fitness being key to his success. He dons the hat of the selector with Hockey India who praises the association for their commendable job in turning around the stature of hockey in the country.
“The biggest effort of taken by Hockey India was organising the Hockey India League(HIL). Earlier, we didn’t play against the big teams like Germany or the Netherlands that frequently, we just faced each other during the Olympics or World Cups. As a result, we didn’t know how to train or practice against them. HIL gave us the exposure to how to play against them how to attack and defend against their mindset. We played with the best players in the world for five years, which eventually built our confidence. We must praise the federation also for their effort in bringing the best coaches and technical team from the world to train players from where we are reaping benefits today,” Sardar quips. He goes on to add his views on the present coach, Graham Reid, under whom the team have had a brilliant turn around, ” I know Graham for a long time since he was Ric Charlesworth’s assistant. He had a great impact on Australia’s game. I am sure he has a well-planned strategy ahead that would work for the team. We already saw things turning around for India in the Hockey Pro League, and I am sure his effort will be seen in the big tournaments coming up.”
The former centre half, on a personal note, plans to set up an academy has been in the works for some time now. Besides hoping for the Haryana Government to allocate a place somewhere in Panchkula, Sardar has in the past dropped hints of taking the academy to Vancouver as well.
He concludes, “I want to open my own academy to train youngsters. I will work with other academies, whenever my training in police completes. I plan to switch to sports training career and I have asked help from the government to open my academy, I hope it will see the light of the day once this pandemic situation is over. I will focus on training kids. Wherever I will get the opportunity to work at the grassroots level, I will do it.”