Gurbaj Singh has probably attracted much media space than any other individual player over the last few weeks. And it’s not a surprise at all simply because he is considered the country’s best right-half, who lends so much utility to the side but is still consigned to the sidelines even after his nine-month ban was lifted by Hockey India after the Punjab and Haryana High Court termed the suspension ‘illegal’.
The ban has been lifted on the talented Indian midfielder but what has gone unnoticed is that Gurbaj will not be part of the 2016 Hockey India League. Let’s try to understand why the ace right-half will miss the 2016 HIL. It may be worth recalling that Hockey India had slapped a nine-month ban on Gurbaj in the second week of August and around a month later he was given an opportunity to appeal against the ban sometime in mid-September.
Gurbaj moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court and on October 24 that the court delivered its verdict terming the suspension ‘illegal’. Gurbaj by then spent more than two months of his nine-month ban and the Hockey India League auctions were held on September 17. The talented Punjab Police DSP could not go under the hammer owing to the ban. One wonders whether it is Gurbaj’s fault that he had spent around two months of his nine-month ban subsequently termed ‘illegal’ by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Since the ban was termed ‘illegal’, shouldn’t the powers-that-be factored in the auction happening during his initial ban period and kept his HIL playing chances alive? Hockey India President Narinder Batra opens up on the same. “Look, there is little we can do. We cannot again conduct an auction for one player.
All franchises have picked their squad of 20 players and I don’t see any team accommodating Gurbaj unless some player is seriously injured and pulled of the 2016 HIL.”
The non-participation of Gurbaj in the 2016 HIL effectively means he will miss out an opportunity to prove the selectors that he is fit as a fiddle and in form to be in contention for selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “Gurbaj is eligible to play in all domestic tournaments and nobody is trying to stop him. He is playing in domestic events and we all have to move on as there are many tournaments ahead for him to prove his worth. The SAF Games will be held in February, followed by Sultan Azlan Shah Cup among others. I never interfere in player selection matters and leave it to the coaches and selectors,” Batra says.
One feels sorry for Gurbaj as it is not his fault that he was serving the initial period of a nine-month ban, which was justifiably termed ‘illegal’ by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Let’s hope Gurbaj stays fit and keeps competing in all domestic tournaments for Punjab Police and marks a national comeback for the February SAF Games – that’s all hockey buffs can hope for. Indian hockey