Is this the end of the road for Sandeep Singh?
Seasoned drag-flicker Sandeep Singh‘s exclusion from the list of 48 probables selected for the upcoming national camp in preparation for the 9th Men’s Asia Cup throws an air of uncertainty over his playing career.
The 27-year-old experienced fullback was recalled to the national side after being sidelined for nearly a year following India’s wooden-spoon finish in the 2012 London Olympics.
In fact, there was a general perception that Sandeep Singh may never ever return to the national side given coach Michael Nobbs’ oft-repeated insistence that he must reinvent himself to force his way into the national side.
Nobbs has always given the impression that Sandeep must raise his game as other fullbacks like Vokkaliga Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh are snapping at his heels.
His absence from the Indian team for various tournaments – 34th Champions Trophy, Asian Champions Trophy, Hockey World League Round 2 event and the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup only lend credence to the belief that the end-game was round the corner.
Nobbs seems to have been impressed with his short corner expertise, but had voiced serious reservations about his defending skills, especially his man-to-man marking. So, it actually came as a bit of a surprise when Sandeep was given an opportunity to redeem himself in the Hockey World League Round 3 event in Rotterdam.
Sandeep did not do his cause any good by failing to lift his game. Usually, when a player is staging a comeback, he is expected to deliver an impactful performance. Of course, it will be a tad below the belt to only single out Sandeep for the entire team should take the flak for their failure to seal the World Cup berth in Rotterdam.
But yes, even the die-hard Sandeep Singh supporters will agree that the Rotterdam event was not a statement-making performance from Sandeep.
The bigger question is: what does the future hold for the Haryana DSP? Sandeep is 27, which is certainly not the ripe time to retire. He clearly has some years of hockey in him, but the point is can he convince the current team management that he can really make a difference to the side’s fortunes? Will he fit into the scheme of things with so many youngsters around?
These are the questions that will be key to his comeback to the national fold. For now, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Sandeep.
Comebacks are of course synonymous with Sandeep. In 2006, he was hit by a stray bullet while travelling in Shatabadi – he was on his way to join the national side, which was to leave for Germany for the 2006 World Cup in two days time.
Sandeep was wheel-chaired for a long time before he made a comeback to the Indian team in 2008. That remarkable comeback and his latest comeback post-London Olympics should serve as motivation pills for one of India’s prolific drag-flick goal-scorers.
He can also derive inspiration from the 2004 Junior Asia Cup in Karachi, which India won for the first time, where he finished as the top goal-scorer, which subsequently secured his ticket to the senior team for the 2004 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
These are the times when a player looks at his career highs and earlier tough periods to chart out his comeback plans and Sandeep will be eyeing the same route.