It is not at all a ‘great feeling’ to be in the shoes of Gurbaj Singh. Nothing can be more ‘frustrating and unfortunate’ for a player when you realise that the federation under whom you get the opportunity to represent the country is trying all ways and means to halt your international career.
It’s indeed sad to see Hockey India train its guns at Gurbaj on the basis of a report submitted by former assistant coach Jude Felix (the report stated that his unbecoming behaviour was harming the team and he was disrespectful towards the coaches). It can’t surely be Gurbaj’s fault that the September 17 auctions were held during the initial two months of his nine-month ban period – a ban subsequently termed ‘illegal’ by the Punjab and Haryana High Court after the player moved the court after his appeal was rejected by Hockey India’s disciplinary committee.
The timing of the appeal meeting is questionable as it was held a day after the September 18 auctions - dropping hints that people in Hockey India wanted to slam the HIL non-participation door on Gurbaj. What was initially a mild doubt has now translated into a solid confirmation that every attempt was made to finish off his career – Hockey India lifting the ban on Gurbaj was only symbolic and nothing else. The talented right half's name does not feature in the list of 182 reserve players and that itself sums up how Hockey India tried every trick in the book to end Gurbaj’s career.
Hockey India has stated that Gurbaj is free to play in all domestic tournaments but why then he is not accommodated in any of the six franchises after the September 17 auctions and why he is not part of 182 reserve player list. All franchises can pick any player in case of any serious injury from this 182 reserve player list.
Gurbaj’s name missing in this list leaves no one in doubt that the powers-that-be – or as the statement of Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain in the Punjab and Haryana Court that ‘somebody in the system is against Gurbaj’ only reinforces our conviction that a raw deal is being meted out to this talented midfielder.
Players make up the national team and slog to give us the results and not the officials, whose whims and fancies over the years have clipped the wings of so many talented Indian hockey players. It’s time Hockey India keep their egos on the backburner and reinstate Gurbaj. One is not sure if the federation wants to serve a clear message – ‘pay your price for going to court’. Let’s hope this is not the case and Gurbaj is recalled to the national side soon or else it will be another tale of hockey player slipping into oblivion for showing the courage to demand justice for his ‘unfair ban’ well as his ‘axing’ from the Indian team.
It is not to suggest that Hockey India is always in the wrong as many may like to believe. The federation has done a lot of good things for Indian hockey – the rollout of the HIL being the biggest among them but its handling of the Gurbaj Singh issue has left billion hockey fans fuming and frustrated. One hopes better sense prevails in Hockey India and they quickly realise that the contents of the report submitted against him does not have any substance. Indian hockey needs Gurbaj for not just for the 2016 Rio Olympics but also for international tourneys.