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Indian Express: Hockey India League: Sardar Singh strike fails to save sinking Punjab (2/21/2017)
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Indian Express: Hockey India League: Sardar Singh’s strike fails to save sinking Punjab

Against UP Wizards at the Shivaji Stadium on Monday, the former India captain and the current Punjab skipper showed glimpses of his old self.

By Mihir Vasavda

Last month, while on a vacation to Europe, Sardar Singh was enjoying the sights in Berlin and Amsterdam, when Indian hockey was turning a corner in Lucknow. With the juniors winning the World Cup, the national team’s old guard were put under pressure. Even, Sardar, the team’s mainstay for years, found himself competing with players who he had mentored. With probables for the national camp to be announced next month, a good showing in the Hockey India League was important not just for Sardar but several Indian players who are either clutching on to their spots, or those eager to break into the team.

Against UP Wizards at the Shivaji Stadium on Monday, the former India captain and the current Punjab skipper showed glimpses of his old self. Punjab won 1-0 but that wasn’t enough to keep them alive in the league. However, Sardar proved that he was still a force to reckon with.

Mid-way through the first quarter, he picked up the ball near the 25-yard line in UP’s half and weaved past three defenders before hitting it inches wide from the goal. It was mesmerizing, the way his body swayed and used his wrist to dodge the ball past the players. But as the game progressed, Sardar was increasingly getting frustrated. He would receive a green card in the 33rd minute. This is another aspect of his game that has changed over the years. For the longest time, Sardar was the cleanest Indian player on the pitch.

However, the time away in Germany and Holland, Sardar said, would help rejuvenate him. Punjab’s Australian coach Barry Dancer endorsed this. He called him a ‘leader, competitor and a player who has the desire to make impact on the team.’

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