IN the dock after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Commonwealth Games, senior players have told Hockey India that the team would not have looked disjointed had they played together in a few matches before reaching Gold Coast.
The team’s senior-most players – captain Manpreet Singh, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, SV Sunil and Rupinderpal Singh – met Hockey India officials here on Tuesday as the post-mortem into the team’s poor performance began in the absence of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne, who is on leave.
It is learnt that Hockey India is upset with the erratic performance of the men’s team, which failed to qualify for the final for the first time since 2010 and returned without a medal for the first time since 2006. India could manage only a fourth-place finish after losing to New Zealand in the semifinal and England in the bronze medal playoff. The players defended themselves by saying there wasn’t enough time to understand each other before the Games. “The players said they would’ve preferred to play at least one tournament together instead of directly going to Gold Coast,” a source said. “However, they have not said anything against the coach’s selection policies or strategies.”
India had fielded a relatively young team, with several regulars like Sardar Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Birendra Lakra dropped in favour of younger players. However, the team did not play a single tournament in the build-up to the Games, with Marijne choosing to field a second-string side for the Azlan Shah Cup.
Moreover, the performance of youngsters like Vivek Sagar Prasad, Dilpreet Singh, Sumit and Gurinder Singh wasn’t up to the mark, leaving several question marks on Marijne’s selection policies. A Hockey India official said all these factors will be taken into account during the review meeting, which will take place through this week.
Meanwhile, barely a month after the door for the national team was slammed shut on him, Sardar Singh is set to return when the team assembles in Bangalore for the national camp later this week.
Sardar was reportedly told by the team management that his services were no longer needed, with Marijne and high performance director David John preferring younger players instead of him. However, the performance of the team without Sardar has forced them to change their mind. “It will be tough for an inexperienced team to play in important tournaments like Asian Games and World Cup later this year,” a source said.