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The Gurbaj Singh puzzle - the sooner it is solved, the better

An opinion on the axing of Gurbaj Singh from the Indian hockey team.

Gurbaj Singh in action during the 2014 Commonwealth Games 

He is arguably a player any captain or coach can count on to deliver when the chips are down. If there is ever an occasion for a player to stand up and be counted, he is the right man for it. So what is it that makes Indian ace midfielder Gurbaj Singh appear ‘difficult’ if the recent report to Hockey India’s Special Committee is anything to go by? The 26-year-old Punjab Police DSP has often been branded as an ‘undisciplined guy’ and a lot of times we don’t even know what are the ‘contours’ of his undisciplined ways.

There is always talk that Gurbaj has some history when it comes to ‘indiscipline’, although no one knows what is that ‘history’. We all know Gurbaj was dumped along with six others from the team that capped off a wooden spoon finish at the 2012 London Olympics. Only Gurbaj and Shivendra Singh have earned a recall among the six axed  that also included the likes of Bharat Chetri, Ignace Tirkey, Sarvanjit Singh and Tushar Khandker not attracting the attention of the national selectors since the Olympics.

There were hushed whispers that Gurbaj did not get along well with then head coach Michael Nobbs and a wrong picture of him was projected. It does not come as a surprise because coaches do try to single out players for their own failures in the hot seat.

The Indian midfielder only made a comeback at the 2014 World Cup after being in the wilderness for nearly two years. And his comeback has been a smashing success culminating in his 200th international appearance at the world league in Belgium.

One is not sure what hassles Gurbaj has with the support staff of the national team, especially the Indian coaches as it has reported that he has issues with these coaches. Okay, one can fathom him having issues being in a group, but it’s hard to believe that he can engage in any kind of ‘groupism’ as reported in some section of the media.

“He is a class act. We have learnt a lot by playing alongside him. We look up to him and we are sure he cannot do any ‘groupism’ or create ‘rift’ in the team,” said one of his team-mates.

One is not trying to spring to the defence of Gurbaj, but only suggesting that he is known to be a big team player and unless there are personal issues between Gurbaj and coaches, I don’t see him trying things to disunite the side. His contribution to the side has been acknowledged by everyone, including skipper Sardar Singh and even head coach Roelant Oltmans in the past.

Surely, his performance is not an issue at all – one hopes he gets an opportunity to tell his side of the story and take corrective steps if he has done anything amiss and return to the national fold. Of course, no international team banks on any one individual to win a major competition, there can be little doubt that Gurbaj is a key player, whose services will be needed for India’s Olympic campaign.

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