Recently concluded hockey national championships were overshadowed by World Series Hockey players who performed brilliantly. The players who were forced to miss London Olympics, due to a ban by FIH were brilliant in the field and made a point to Hockey India that they were wrong to discard these players. Out of three individual awards, two awards (best defender and best forward) were won by players who had participated in the World Series Hockey.
Players like Gurjinder Singh, Bharat Chikkara and Devinder Walmiki impressed the fans with their performance but it was Arjun Halappa who impressed the most. Arjun’s performance for Air India was instrumental in helping them reach the final of the tournament. He was also adjudged the best forward of the tournament among all forwards of 34 teams.
Last year when Arjun Halappa was sacked from the team due to old age (the actual reason being his verbal protest against team management), the wisdom of selectors was questioned as he was the main playmaker of the team for nearly 10 years. Arjun Halappa started as forward, and then shifted to right half position even though it was evident that he was most suitable in the centre half position. A perfect team player, he changed his position in order to accommodate other talented players in the centre of the field.
After his sacking from the Indian team, Arjun Halappa has nearly carried his WSH team Karnataka Lions and Air India almost on his shoulders, and despite his age of 31, Arjun still has the ability to play for India for the next 5 years.
In the Olympics, Indian team missed a player who could hold on to the ball, control the tempo and distribute it to other players. India tried Sardara Singh in the role of a playmaker but he was forced to help them in the defence and could not move ahead and control the proceedings during a game.
At the age of 31, Arjun Halappa is still in his peak and mature enough to handle the responsibility of commanding the team in the field. His presence in the field will give Indian team a stability which was missed during the Olympics.
The current Indian team lacks composure and creativity and there is no other player who can fill the role of a playmaker (not even Sardara Singh). India has only Arjun in its ranks and he must be straight away asked to join the team and take the responsibility of controlling the game.
Arjun is one of the most experienced campaigners of India, and his experience will be very important for the Indian team. Despite being the most talented player of India, his skills have not been utilized by the team management.
Hockey India officials must forget the rivalry with Indian Hockey Federation. At the earliest they need to take Arjun Halappa in the team because he is a warrior who must be back in the war zone and without him, victory is impossible.