This is a puzzle that is unlikely to get solved – yes we are talking about talented, experienced midfielder Gurbaj Singh, whose name does not feature among the 33 crore probables, announced by Hockey India for its upcoming national camp, which will be held at the SAI South Centre, Bengaluru from March 7.
It does not need a rocket scientist to understand that the non-inclusion of Gurbaj in the 33 core probables is an adequate indication that Hockey India as well as its coaching staff, does not entertain his presence in the side as far as preparing the national team for the 2016 Rio Olympics is concerned, especially after the federation lifted his nine-month ban after the Punjab & Haryana High Court termed the ban ‘illegal’.
One can now understand one thing – Gurbaj’s inclusion in the second-string national team for the 2016 SAF Games – was only of ‘token’ significance as powers-that-be wanted to send out a message that it does not have anything against Gurbaj despite the player moving the court against the former.
“In India, you can’t take on the system in your playing days and get away with it. It is evident that the selection of Gurbaj for the SAF Games was only to probably give the impression the selectors are fair with him, which is not the case,” says a former coach on condition of anonymity.
For the record, the second-string Indian team did not quite have a great run in the 2016 SAF Games, huffing and puffing their way to the final before going down to arch-rivals. The team had a large chunk of youngsters with him and Mandeep Antil being the only experienced guys.
Gurbaj had last played for India at the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinal Round in Belgium, where the national team had finished fourth losing to Great Britain 1-5 in the bronze medal play-off tie. The Indian medio had played his 200th international in the same event against Australia.
Gurbaj missed four international events – the European tour, New Zealand Test series, Australia Test series and the 2015 Hockey World League Final Round. What’s more, Gurbaj was not considered among the reserve pool of players for the Coal India Hockey India League – his fault was that the auction took place when his first two months of his nine-month ban was in place.
Clearly, no matter how much one says or feels, it is not difficult to see that every attempt is being made to ensure the Punjab Police DSP never plays for the country, let alone Olympics!