Is this the end of the road for Sardar?

The Azlan Shah Cup beginning March 3 in Malaysia could be Sardar Singh's last assignment in international hockey

New Delhi: There comes a time for a player when his long, illustrious career accords him the status of legend, yet is unable to guarantee his place in the side.

The legs are no longer fresh, reflexes slower, but the fire inside remains. And yet the credentials are no longer a confirmed ticket into the XI. These are the times when a player knows he has to put in that extra bit, push that extra yard to stay with the up and coming, who will take his place one day.

Hockey star Sardar Singh — a midfielder who defined Indian hockey in the last decade and became its face — is at the crossroads.

Talk flies thick and fast and questions are being thrown around on how long — or if — he will be able to sustain in the long run. If the word is to believed, the Azlan Shah Cup beginning March 3 in Malaysia could be Sardar’s last assignment in international hockey.

The powers that decide, it is understood, have conveyed the message to the legendary player, who still enjoys top fitness and is a shrewd mind in the midfield with his years of experience and tactical nous. Ask Sardar and he offers his usual, calm demeanour and stresses that he is “preparing for the gruelling year ahead”. He smiles when asked about the longevity of his career knowing well that the query would come up in the course of the conversation.

“I am fit, training hard and well, taking utmost care of my nutrition and sleep and doing everything that a player in the 30s should do to prolong his career,” Sardar said here. “I have heard people say that Sardar has slowed down, but tell me something, ‘was I ever fast?’

“My strength has always been my strong play in the midfield or as a free man, my peripheral vision and my understanding of the game. I have not changed any of it and I try and keep myself updated be it new tactics or areas that I have to improve.”

India will send an experimental team to the Azlan Shah tournament in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, with four players set to make their debut. Sardar, it is learnt, will be given captaincy duties in what is most likely his final tournament.

“I do not yet know about selection. Just like everyone else, I gave trials two days back and am waiting to know the team,” says Sardar.

“My aim to is to play till the World Cup this year (in December) and of course we have the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. I am preparing myself for that.”
Sardar, who was part of the gold-medal winning Asia Cup team in October last, was dropped for the World Hockey League final in Bhubaneswar in December as also the recent tour to New Zealand.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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