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Sardar Singh not over yet, targets Tokyo Olympics as his swansong

In and out of the India Hockey squad of late, the experienced midfielder Sardar says he wants to go all out in the upcoming tournaments to prove his worth in the side. 

Sardar Singh not over yet, targets Tokyo Olympics as his swansong
Sardar Singh was dropped from the India squad during the Hockey World League Final and the Tour of New Zealand. (PTI)

New Delhi: Probably at the twilight of his career, former India hockey captain Sardar Singh is not done yet and wants to give himself a chance till the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before deciding on his future.
Talismanic midfielder Sardar has been in and out of the team as the team management is giving chances to youngsters in an effort to get the right combination for a busy 2018 calendar.

Sardar, who was part of India's Asia Cup-winning squad last year, has been dropped from India's last two tournaments -- the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar and last month's tour to New Zealand. He is currently part of the core probables, but it remains to be seen what the team management is thinking about the veteran even though he stays optimistic.

"I said it before that I want to continue till the Olympics. There are no major tournaments in 2019 for us apart from Olympic preparation. I will be playing proper hockey this year till the World Cup," Sardar said.

Sardar said he doesn't lack motivation and is fit. "But the next tournament where I will get a chance be it Azlan Shah, Commonwealth or anything else, I just want to give my best," the 31-year-old midfielder said. "My body is fine. There is no lacking on the fitness part. Fitness is very important and my main focus would be to avoid injuries."

The veteran, however, is happy with the rotation policy adopted by the new coach Sjoerd Marijne. "There 30-34 players in the core probables but till last year only 18 or 19 were usually part of the team. It is good that now every player from the core group is getting a chance. When I was dropped, the coach told me that they have seen me in Asia Cup and now they want to see other players of the group." Sardar said now no one can take his place for granted in the team.

"The rotation policy is a good process. The left-out players don't feel de-motivated anymore. Nobody can be sure of his place and everyone has to perform to secure his place," he said. "The coaches have seen all players, given chances and they now know who can perform at what level. Now the best 16 or 18 will get a chance in the team."

Sardar was played as a free-man in his last outing in the Asia Cup. Even though he is ready for any role for the team's sake, the veteran said he still relishes being a midfielder. "I first played a free-man under Michael Nobbs when (High Performance Director) David John was also there with the team. I again played in the same position after 6-7 years in the Asia Cup," he said. "I am ready to play at any role for the team, but what I feel is that I can deliver more on the midfield position, a place where I have played for the last 10 years."