With the culmination of Asian Champions Trophy, Sports Flashes spoke to the hockey legend Sardar Singh about the recent performance of the Indian team and their prospects in the forthcoming World Cup. Here is the transcript of the complete interview:
Q: How do you analyze India’s performance in the Asian Champions Trophy?
Sardar Singh: We had a decent start to the tournament barring a couple of quarters in the match against Malaysia, and semi final against Japan where the energy level of the players looked quite low. Though the players recovered well and it was evident in the game against Korea and in the latter part of the Japan game as well. We just have to make sure we don’t play good hockey only in patches but in the entirety of the game. The moment we upped the tempo of the game with the speed of the ball and played simpler hockey, we saw our opponents were under pressure.
It would have been great to have won the final. We would have gone to the World Cup with momentum by our side and having won a tournament, the morale of the team would have been high. In fact, the rain has done Pakistan a good, who were not favorites and now go to the World Cup as joint winners of the Asian champions Trophy.
Q: In the later part of the tournament, we were not 100% against Malaysia and in Semis against Japan. Is it something to do with the mental toughness?
Sardar Singh: Well, it seems that the Asian Games defeat was still hanging in the minds of the players and we need to watch them out closely. Whereas, we knocked out the Japanese 9-0 in the league match but a semi final is always a different game altogether and we won it eventually. It’s all about winning the match, no matter how the score line looks like. You may have better circle penetration, better possession but if you do not have goals on the scoreboard, the whole effort goes for a toss and turns futile.
Q: Keeping the World Cup in mind, which 2-3 players do we need to look out for?
Sardar Singh: It is a team game and you need at least 8-9 Players to click on a given day to win you a match. You can’t just rely on one or two players to win matches if 7-8 players are off colour. At the most you can win a game, with fluke but you can’t sustain it for long. India’s fortune will largely hinge on PR Sreejesh, Akashdeep Singh and Manpreet’s flair and they will have to take responsibilities to make sure the team is playing up to the mark hockey.
Q: If you were to pick the team, will you pick Rupinder Pal and SV Sunil in the team for the World Cup?
Sardar Singh: Both the players are vastly experienced and should very much be a part of the team. India needs to make sure they have a mix of youthful and experienced players in the team. Unless, there are injury concerns they should make it to the team.
Q: Where do you think India will finish in the World Cup? What are the realistic chances?
Sardar Singh: Every athlete has a dream of playing in such a big tournament and that too in front of the home crowd. We will have the home advantage in Bhubaneswar, which usually sees packed house. With the new scheduling, even if you have an off day in a league match and play your crossover and quarterfinals well you can make it to the semis and then its anybody’s game. It is really hard to predict where we can finish but the team is in good shape and has beaten bigger teams in the recent past, so we are hoping for the best.
About the Author
Suposh Sharma, keenly follows Hockey, Athletics, and other Olympic sports. He also has a penchant for writing humour and is an avid traveller