Year Ender: 2018, Indian Hockey and Sardar Singh
At the start of 2018, veteran midfielder Sardar Singh made a comeback into the Indian hockey team.
The former captain was dropped for the Hockey World League finals in Bhubaneswar, in October, 2017, and was also not included in the Asia Cup Squad in December.
In his absence, India struck bronze in World League, and then followed it up with a win over Malaysia in the Asia Cup final to clinch the gold, under Manpreet Singh’s captaincy.
A month after Sultan Azlan, Sardar was dropped again from the team – and Manpreet was again handed the captain’s armband.
The theme, recurrent in Indian Hockey over the past few years has been of chopping and changing and in 2018, it was much the same.
Sardar was one of the big chapters in 2018. After being dropped from CWG squad, he made a grand return in June at the Champions Trophy, where India put on their best show this year. The side put on a fighting display against Australia in the final, but went down 3-1 in shootouts to finish in the 2nd position.
With his performance, he was retained in the Asian Games squad, where the defending champions suffered a humiliating defeat to Malaysia on penalties and failed to bag the gold medal.
After the tournament, Sardar Singh was dropped again for the Asian Champions Trophy and he decided to call it quits, meaning India would enter the World Cup without their most experienced man.
Men’s hockey team proved to be a serious disappointment throughout the year – they failed to bag a medal at CWG 2018, finished with bronze in the Asiad and their dream of a second World Cup title was left shattered with a 1-2 defeat to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
The “chopping-and-changing” was not limited to the players – it befell on the coaches once too.
Eight months after sacking Roelant Oltmans as the men’s team coach, the management once again made another change.
Former Women’s team coach Sjoerd Marijne, who took over the coaching duties from Oltmans, was sent back to his previous duties, and Harendra Singh was given the reigns as the head coach of the men’s team.