New Delhi: With a young Indian team managing an impressive fourth-place finish in the Champions Trophy, hockey coach Michael Nobbs hinted that seniors like Sandeep Singh could be on their way out as he is looking to build a side for the 2016 Olympics.
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep, Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh and former captain Bharat Chetri were left out of the squad for the Champions Trophy, where the Sardara Singh-led India, playing in the event after six years, managed to qualify for the semi-finals.
Asked about the fate of the seniors after they were also ignored for the upcoming Asian Champions Trophy in Doha, Nobbs said hard work and performance are the only criteria for getting selected in the national team.
“They (seniors) will have to work hard to get back their places and the longer these youngsters keep on performing the harder it will be for them,” Nobbs said.
“The players have been selected on the merit of their performances. But it doesn’t mean the seniors are missing out, it means they have to work harder. We wanted to build up the base. If you look at the Australians, Germans they have very big base. We are looking for a good team in four years time. The question we have to ask is that by picking a player now will he be available for Rio?” he asked.
“Will he be good enough in four years time or will he be old? Keeping that in mind, the selectors decided to build a team for the future. I am happy with the competition but I would like to have more players competing for positions,” he insisted.
Even though he was disappointed not to have returned with a medal from Melbourne, Nobbs said the fact that two Asian teams qualified for the last four of the Champions Trophy is a good sign for the game. “I am disappointed because I want to win everything, every game, every championship but all of these require great deal of hard work and little bit of luck. Two Asian teams in the semi-final of Champions Trophy means world hockey will start noticing the fact that we are starting to come back again now,” he said.
He was full of praise for his young team and handpicked a few players including Sardara Singh, who according to him was exceptional in the Champions Trophy.
“It was an excellent effort by a young team. They worked really hard. The young players showed their determination to play hockey for India. Sardara has played 150 internationals and everybody else is around 10-20. So it is a very young team. “Results would tell you that they just wanted to play hockey. I am really proud of them and India should be proud of them,” he said.
“Sardara Singh. He has been picked as the top five players in the world but probably he is presently number two in the world. He is a fantastic player and leads by example on the field,” the soft-spoken coach said. (agencies)