Chandigarh: The World Series Hockey (WSH) on Tuesday suffered a big blow with India players, including skipper Sardar Singh and star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, likely to skip the inaugural cash-rich tournament beginning on Wednesday.
Chandigarh Comets take on Bhopal Badshahs, led by Sardar Singh, in the inaugural match here tomorrow and coaches of both the teams lamented that the "standoff" between Hockey India (HI) and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was not helping the cause of players and the sport.
Addressing separate news conferences this evening at the Sector 42 hockey stadium here, coaches of the two teams said players were mature enough and they must take their own call to participate or no t in the WSH over month-long tournament.
Comets` coach Harendra Singh said he had tried to talk to his players P R Sreejesh, Sarvanjit Singh and Birendra Lakra, but so far had received no reply from them regarding their participation.
"The India players have not reported to the camp yet. Bringing players is not in my domain. I will proceed with whatever I have and that`s my job as a coach," he said.
Harendra tried to put up a brave front when asked if it would take the sheen away from the tournament when star players will be missing.
"I will still like to take positive out of it. It will help bring to light some new talent, which in the long run will be good for Indian hockey," he said, adding that despite the controversies "the show must go on".
Asked about skipper Rehan Butt, who leds Chandigarh Comets, Harendra claimed he will be reaching here on Wednesday from Pakistan, but his participation also remains doubtful considering the tournament is starting tomorrow itself.
Bhopal Badshahs coach Bhaskaran said that he was not sure about the participation of players including star India player Sardara Singh and Shivendra Singh. PTI
India players, who helped the country seal their berth for the London Olympics after winning the Hockey qualifier, are fearing bans from the FIH, which is currently working for a solution to the long impasse between the HI and IHF.
The FIH has made it clear that though they are not in favour of bans, it cannot give sanction to the lucrative league until the two warring factions -- HI and IHF – reach an agreement.
HI have also made matters worse for the players as a day after India booked a place for the Olympics, they announced a list of 48 probables and also named the date of national camp from March 5 in Bangalore.
Addressing the media, Bhaskaran claimed that just a month back Sports Minister Ajay Maken had given him and 30 other Olympians, who had a meeting with him, assurance that no training camp will be kept during the WSH, which has already been postponed in December for the Olympic qualifiers.
"But what is happening now is completely the opposite," Bhaskaran said.
Nimbus Sport COO Yannick Colaco, meanwhile, assured the participation of the India players and said: "Players have taken a break after their good show at the qualifiers but they have personally confirmed to me that they will participate in the WHS."
Both the coaches maintained that participation of key Indian players would have only helped the cause of players and the team as WSH would have provided them the ideal platform before the London Olympics.
"It would have been wonderful opportunity for everyone. After the Olympic qualifiers, it would have given the right signal and further helped promote the game," Harendra said.
"Who is most important, it is the players. Let the show go on. If two warring factions sit together and sort out the issues, it will be good for the sport."
Bhaskaran said WSH would help scout talent.
"If we did not have IPL, nobody would have found Ravinder Jadeja, Suresh Raina and some other players. (WSH) franchisees have put in a lot of money," he said indicating the worry was only natural on their part when national players will be "arm twisted" in not taking part.
"WSH should be seen as a tournament which would have entertained players besides helping them to keep themselves physically and mentally fit," Bhaskaran said,
He said the onus was on the players to take a call.
"You cannot arm twist Sachin (Tendulkar). To play or not to play will be his decision," he said.