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Hockey India softens stand on WSH-labelled players, inducts 9 players in Junior World Cup camp

Chandigarh Comets' hockey player Gurjinder Singh (C) is one of the 9 players recalled by Hockey India

Chandigarh Comets’ hockey player Gurjinder Singh (C) is one of the 9 players recalled by Hockey India

The issue of hockey players plying their trade in the rebel World Series Hockey (WSH) has attracted a lot of bad press in the last couple of years. In fact, at every available opportunity Hockey India (HI) – who runs the sport in the country – had to cope with uncomfortable questions as to why the country’s hockey body was acting in a vindictive manner against those players who took part in the World Series Hockey (WSH), which was jointly organized by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports from December 17, 2011 to January 22, 2012.

In a refreshing change, Hockey India (HI) seems to have softened its stand of ignoring the WSH-labelled players and is indeed willing to consider them on grounds on form and fitness.

Hockey India first showed signs of going soft on the players figuring in the World Series Hockey when they picked talented Indian Oil drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh in the national probables for the first camp after the disastrous London Olympics campaign.

At the inaugural and the only World Series Hockey tournament, Gurjinder was firing on all cylinders. He was named the best player of the tournament.

It is a different matter altogether that Gurjinder did not make the final cut for the FIH 34th Champions Trophy hockey tournament held in Melbourne, Australia as well as in the second Asian Champions Trophy held in Doha, Qatar.

To be fair to Gurjinder, he had a strong case for a national call-up. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore his performance.

Gurjinder scored 9 goals in the Surjit Singh Memorial Hockey Tournament and was named the Best Player of the Tournament. He slammed 8 goals in the 65th All-India Obaidullah Gold Cup Hockey Tourney and was named the Best Defender of the Tourney. Gurjinder was also adjudged the Best Player of the Tournament in the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hockey Tournament.

Even at the Seniors Nationals, Gurjinder was named the Best Defender of the Tournament and also won a Tata Nano for his exploits.

Gurjinder was finally included in the national team for the Hockey World League Round 2 and the Azlan Shah Cup tournaments.

Now it seems more WSH-labelled players are going to join the national fold after Gurjinder. Hockey India has called up as many as nine players, including Gurjinder, in the preparatory camp for the Junior World Cup, which will be held in New Delhi in December this year. The nine players picked for the camp are Ramandeep Singh, Harjot Singh, Amir Khan (all Chandigarh Comets), Devendra Walmiki (Mumbai Marines), Lalit Upadhyay, Affan Yousuf and Armaan Qure

The camp begins in Bengaluru today and runs till April 23 under the supervision of chief coach Baljit Singh Saini.

All these players were given a national lifeline after they tendered a written apology to HI and vowed not to take part in any unsanctioned event in the future.

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