There have been umpteen occasions when the career of a hockey player has got derailed due to the whims and fancies of the federation. To cut it short, no player is expected to take on the “might” of the federation – as it will mean putting their career on the line.
So when India’s crafty midfielder Gurbaj Singh moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the nine-month ban handed out to him, it was crystal clear that he was putting his hockey career at stake by taking on the federation that till then was not ‘at all used to’ players taking their protests to public domain.
We all know Gurbaj is a key player for India and although we believe every player is replaceable, putting up a player having the same quality like the Punjab Police DSP is easier said than done. Over the years, we have seen so many players bidding goodbye to competitive hockey because they either got a raw deal from the federation/selectors or subtle politicking was at play to oust a player for reasons best known to some.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has categorically stated that there is no provision in players’ code of conducts for such lengthy bans and even suggested that “somebody in the system” is against Gurbaj.
By not calling up Gurbaj to the ongoing camp and not picking him in the team for the Australia Test series and Hockey World League Final Round, Hockey India has perhaps sent out a clear message that the ban for which the player moved the court has been lifted but he has to pay a price for first of all approaching the court. Remember – no Indian player has in the past dared to take the legal route at being unfairly dropped or banned from the national side – Gurbaj Singh is the first player to do such an act.
Believe me it takes a lot of guts to take such a step, but this act makes a lot of us wonder whether Gurbaj is indeed going to pay a’ heavy price’ for having the temerity to move the court against Hockey India. Picking him straightaway may also encourage other disgruntled players to take the same legal route in future if not now – something no federation will want as it can become a precedent.
Like former Indian coach Jose Brasa once said,“Indian players play under a lot of pressure” – the statement only brings to the fore the jitters among the players about having to deliver and not lose their place in the side, for there are times when players don’t even know why there are “dropped when they are fully fit and performing”.
One is not sure whether he cannot be picked in the side because he was not among the core probables. If it is a procedural thing, we don’t know but having Gurbaj for two big events would have been a huge asset for the team.
Only time will tell how the future unfolds for Gurbaj.