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Much-required SAF Games lifeline for ban-lifted Gurbaj Singh

How crucial are the SAF Games for Gurbaj Sigh? Here's a look

Gurbaj Singh

The ‘unfairly imposed nine-month ban’ slapped on Indian hockey midfielder Gurbaj Singh was subsequently quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, as they termed it as ‘illegal’, with Hockey India lifting the ban on the concerned player. It is said that when things go wrong, it can go ‘horribly wrong’.

Gurbaj experienced a similar fate – the midfielder had initially served out two months of his illegal nine-month ban (the ban period started in the month of September 2015) and in the process missed out on participation in the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League, as the auctions were held during those initial two months.

Clearly, the last few months have been really ‘tough’ for Gurbaj, who found himself consigned to the sidelines. But as a player, one should always stay positive and believe that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. And the so-called ‘light’ has surfaced in the form of Gurbaj finding a place among the probables for the upcoming South Asian Games (SAF) which will be held simultaneously in Guwahati and Shillong from February 6-16.

Of course, one has to understand that the Indian hockey selectors are likely to field a second-string side at the SAF Games as its frontline players will be busy playing in the 2016 Coal India Hockey India League, which will be held in January and February. Notwithstanding that Gurbaj has to feel bullish about his national comeback plans as a strong performance at the SAF Games will be hard for the powers-that-be to overlook him when they pick the senior team for major events like the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Champions Trophy.

“The inclusion of Gurbaj is good news for him and his fans. Since he is not eligible to play in the Coal India Hockey India League, the SAF Games will be a great opportunity to show the selectors that he is fit and in form. Merely playing in domestic tourneys may not have been enough for him to push his case for a recall as such events often miss the attention of the selectors,” said a former hockey selector.

Irrespective of whether India is at full strength or fields a second string side in the SAF Games, his presence in the event will not just give India a lot of solidity in the midfield but also enhance his Olympic-playing chances. “It is definitely a good augury for Gurbaj. It will lift his morale in a big way. To be out of the side is never a good feeling for any player and I’m sure Gurbaj will relish the SAF Games opportunity,” the former selector added.

It is learnt that Gurbaj has indicated his availability for the SAF Games and one hopes that the Punjab Police DSP will strain his last nerve to make a big impression in the event and mark a return to the national fold. One also hopes that Gurbaj makes it to the final squad for the SAF Games from among the probables or else the Gurbaj episode will refuse to fade away.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope Gurbaj delivers a power-packed showing at the SAF Games.

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