Rio Olympics 2016: Did Hockey India take the right decision in removing Sardar Singh as captain?
Could the former India captain still help the side win a medal at the Rio Olympics?
Sardara Singh, fondly known as Sardar Singh,as his name suggests, has been a "Sardar" (Leader) to the teams that he has played in. Be it the Indian national hockey team or franchise teams like Delhi Waveriders in the Hockey India League, he has always been a leader both on and off the pitch.
From being the youngest captain in Indian hockey history at the tender age of 22 to being inducted to the FIH World Team of the Year in 2012, he is one of the most decorated Indian hockey players in history.
Ever since being appointed as a captain way back in 2012 before the start of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Sardar Singh has led this country ably back into the Hockey World Map, winning multiple honours and punching well beyond their weight along the way in doing so.
Under his captaincy, the Indian hockey team won a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, thus making sure that India qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Besides this, the team also performed extremely well in the recently concluded Champion's Trophy where India finished second behind World Champions Australia, losing the finals in a penalty shootout.
Sardar Singh did miss out on this tournament to an injury. These reasons along with good performances in the 2014 commonwealth games have led many to believe that the upcoming Olympics in Rio provides as good a chance as there has been in the past 30 years for India to challenge for a podium finish at the first ever South American Olympics.
Axing Sardar as the captain – Right decision?
Being as successful as the Indian team has been under Sardar Singh, common sense would quote for stability and consistency in the team selection for the Rio Games as well. However, just a month to the start of these games, the Haryana native, Sardar Singh has been axed as the captain of the team and replaced by PR Sreejesh.
This decision has raised a few stirs amongst the followers of the sport in India and brought divided opinions on this decision by the Indian Hockey Federation. A certain section of the fan following has claimed that Sreejesh's appointment as a captain has been forthcoming considering the problems Sardar has had both on and off the pitch.
Sreejesh, a world class goalkeeper in his own rights, has certainly got it in him to lead a side into the Olympic Games. But questions remain as to, if this is the right time for the switch of guard to happen, whether this change in leadership will have any impact for the team in general going into the summer games, whether Sreejesh would be able to lead this side and galvanise them and bring the best out of them, to lead them to a major Olympic medal after what seems like an eternity.
Perhaps, only time will tell if Hockey India took the right decision in removing Sardar Singh as captain and appointing Sreejesh just before the games or if Sardar had been the leader of the Indian team going into the Rio Olympics.