How much will India miss 'axed' Rupinder Pal Singh?
Every time the selection of the Indian hockey team is on the cards, there is a great deal of excitement among hockey fans about what kind of combination the coach and the selectors are looking at. Expectedly, the announcement of the national team for the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinals to be held in Brasschaat, Belgium from June 20 to July 5 grabbed much attention, and more so because talented drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh was axed with the head coach Paul Van Ass stating that he wants to try out new combinations keeping the 2016 Rio Olympics in mind.
One can’t find fault with Van Ass’s tactic of trying out various combinations for the Rio Olympics, but uncomfortable questions will be asked whether a big-ticket event such as Hockey World League Semifinals was an “ideal platform” to tinker with the team combination. It’s good to understand that a strong performance in the Hockey World League Semifinals will push India up in the world rankings, which can be a big boost for our team’s morale ahead of the Olympics, where we want our boys to send out a message that ‘good days’ are indeed back for Indian hockey.
The team management did try out various combinations during the four-Test series against Japan – in all fairness, it was a prudent move on the part of Van Ass to experiment with a wider pool of players against a side that wasn’t expected to topple the apple cart of the hosts – its’ a different matter altogether that Japan posed a strong fight against us. Van Ass has also been talking about the need to prepare for ‘eventualities’. My question is: if Rupinder was axed to see how the team can cope without him, why the coach and the selectors did not feel the need to pick Gurjinder and Harmanpreet in the side alongside Raghunath. Rupinder has been a consistent performer for the side not just in terms of scoring goals from penalty corners, but also in assisting the defence in crisis situations.
If you want to ensure that the team is not relying on one or two drag-flickers in an event as big as the Olympics in case one or two of them gets injured, then the best way forward will be to pick the likes of Gurjinder and Harmanpreet in the side and ensure that the reserve flickers are ready for action.
Clearly, the omission of Rupinder has left a bad taste in hockey fans’ mouths – one hopes that ‘trying out various combinations’ is the only factor for his axing. Indian hockey has many examples of players being dropped beyond the ‘performance’ parameter. Having one potent drag-flicker in the side for the Hockey World League Semifinals is ‘just not acceptable’ and one can only hope the Indian team does not miss Rupinder much in Brasschaat. Probably, that is the question is on most hockey lovers’ lips for now!