Interview with Sardar Singh: "I want to improve my long passing"
Sardar Singh’s debut year with Jaypee Punjab Warriors panned out to be a lucky charm as the yellow brigade cornered glory after two abortive attempts in the 2014 and 2015 editions.
The 29-year-old Indian captain, whose modest $58,000 buy by the Warriors caused many surprises, spoke about Warriors’ glory and much more in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Here are the excerpts:
Q You joined the Jaypee Punjab Warriors side for the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League and the Punjab side cornered glory.
Jaypee Punjab Warriors pulled off a great league win. Ever since our franchise picked this team I knew we were strong contenders. Our Indian and Australian players really combined well along with the other foreign players. Guys like Armaan Qureshi and Satbir Singh really rose to the occasion for us.
Q The Hockey India League final has been a bit of a jinx for the Warriors – you lost both the 2014 and 2015 finals to Delhi Waveriders and Ranchi Rays in shootouts. What did your head coach Barry Dancer tell you guys on the eve of the final?
Barry Dancers always tells us to take one game at a time. On the eve of the final, he said we have finished runners-up twice and that there is no point in finishing runners-up for the third time. Our team have a good blend of youth and experience and I think we really respect each other, both off the pitch and on the pitch – it reflected in the way we performed in the league.
Q Was there any disappointment when you are bought for just $58,000 by the Warriors during the September auctions?
To be honest, I was disappointed at that time and then moved on, wanting to play my part for the Warriors. A few lakhs here and there don’t make much difference to me but yes, at that moment I was feeling disappointed but not anymore.
Q You have always been a non-controversial figure – but the outburst by your alleged girlfriend Ashpal Kaur Bhogal created quite a storm.
I have said what I have to say and don’t want to add anything more. I will keep my focus on my hockey with 2016 being the Olympic year.
Q How much truth is in the fact that you had got engaged to her?
As I have said before, I was never engaged with her – we were just friends – don’t wish to say anything more.
Q We have seen in Indian cricket how a captain’s input is taken in picking a side. As for Indian hockey, how much of a role you play in team selection?
Well, my job is to play for the country. Of course, if the selectors and the coaches want me to offer my suggestions on any player, I do oblige but I am never the final deciding authority. Basically, I give my inputs when needed only.
Q There is a feeling in India that a player is past his prime once he reaches the age of say 27, 28, 29. Your thoughts.
I think such a line of thinking used to be there in earlier days but not anymore. Ever since Hockey India came up with this league, and the extensive television coverage of the league has ensured spectators can see who is performing and who is not.
Q You are considered the world’s top centre-half – irrespective of how talented a player – every player look to improve. What are the improvement areas you would like to focus on in future?
I like to work on my long passes as well as improving coordination with my team-mates.
Q Tell us about your lethal reverse slap, which tends to surprise your opponents?
I put in a lot of effort and hope to keep working on my reverse slap.
Q The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April is India’s first international assignment of 2016. How important is this tourney given the fact that the Olympics are happening five months later?
Being an Olympic year, it is important for us to start on a good note. Teams like Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and hosts Malaysia will be playing this year and we will be tested for sure.
Q Which youngsters really impressed you at the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League?
Armaan Qureshi of Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Sumit Kumar of Ranchi Rays, Harmanpreet Singh and Nilakanta Sharma of Dabang Mumbai. I was impressed with these players.