It is time Indian Hockey team comes out and backs Gurbaj Singh
Jude Felix, former Indian assistant coach while submitting his hockey World League semi-final report to Hockey India, blamed right-half Gurbaj Singh for creating disharmony and groupism among the team members along with not paying heed to the advice given by the assistant coaches during the tournament. Hockey India formed a committee under the aegis of Harbinder Singh (favourite past time- teaching people lessons), banned Gurbaj Singh for nine months and ruled him out of Olympics preparation. Even the appeal filed by Gurbaj Singh was turned down by Hockey India which has jeopardised his participation in the upcoming Rio Olympics.
With everything going against him, Gurbaj Singh who is shocked by the happenings has decided to knock on the court doors to get justice for himself. There is no doubt, going to court will very well end Gurbaj Singh’s international career as Hockey India officials do not like questions to be raised on their workings. Taking Hockey India to court will make sure Gurbaj Singh will never play for Indian team again (or even in Hockey India League) and that does not solve any purpose except soothing the ego of Gurbaj Singh.
If Gurbaj thinks with a clear mind, there are only two possibilities- either accept the ban and continue working out for nine months and pray for his selection in team for Rio Olympics or get the support of Indian hockey team members to fight on his behalf.
Current coach of Indian hockey team, Roelant Oltmans who then was High Performance Director of Indian team has supported Gurbaj Singh rubbishing the report that there was any disharmony in the team, saying that there is no disharmony in the team and asked the reporters to ask PR Sreejesh, VR Raghunath and Sardar Singh who were standing next to him after they returned from Netherlands.
PR Sreejesh, who has been playing with Gurbaj Singh for a long time also refuted the claim saying, “He is a fantastic player, one of the best in the team and as a co-player and I have found nothing wrong with his behaviour.”
Gurbaj Singh also claimed to have the support of Captain Sardar Singh and other team mates as well. On arriving in New Delhi, Roelant Oltmans and Sardar Singh had meeting with Gurbaj Singh where they backed Gurbaj against the allegations made by assistant coach Jude Felix.
If the squad really believes Gurbaj Singh has not done anything wrong, they should come forward and support him, if not openly then by talking to Narinder Batra, president of Hockey India.
This is very important time for Indian hockey team as they prepare for the Olympics and if the team misses out one important and good player because of some petty politics and personal ego of a coach then it would be nothing short of a crime.
There is also no suspicion in the mind of hockey experts that Gurbaj Singh is a problem child as he does run in with officials, like he did with former coach Michael Nobbs during London Olympics (Nobbs called him selfish and charged him with dissent). K Arumugam of stick2hockey called him a great, famous player who is a complex pack and asks Hockey India to show some compassion.
If, Indian team considers him important for their preparations to Rio Olympics and believe he is innocent then they must not waste time and talk to Narinder Batra and request him to overturn his ban so that he can join Indian team in preparing for the Olympics. Since his ban, Indian team management has tried various options at the right flank to replace Gurbaj (defenders Raghunath, Rupinder and Jasjit were played in that position) but it did not give Indian team the push that they received from the combination of Gurbaj, SV Sunil and Dharamvir Singh. Gurbaj Singh has been great help while defending too.
The left flank of Indian team is pretty set with Manpreet Singh running the show, but with just months to go for the Olympics, the ban handed out to Gurbaj Singh has created problems for Indian team management. It’s time, Hockey India once again looks at the situation and overturns (or reduces) the ban on Gurbaj Singh and the current squad who too are stumped after missing one of their best players should come out to support him.
P.S- Hockey India must really consider if Harbinder Singh is the right person in any of Hockey India’s committees as his favourite past-time is to teach hockey players a lesson. He did it to drag-flicker Sandeep Singh when he was axed after London Olympics and now he has done it with Gurbaj Singh.