No one deserves it more. The elevation of Sardar Singh as captain has not come a day too soon. It is appropriate reward for Sardar’s class, competence and consistency displayed in competitive hockey since 2006.

Even as the trauma of the London disaster refuses to thin out, a huge test comes for the 26-year-old Haryana midfielder and his team in the next few weeks.

The four-nation tournament at Perth and the Champions Trophy in Melbourne later constitute a challenge more than what India had faced in London.

Acknowledged as outstanding for the amalgam of talent, temperament and tactical acumen on the contemporary scene, Sardar, who led India in the 2006 Azlan Shah Trophy, always inspires the rest by exemplary work on the field.

But he knows no abracadabra to swish away the dark clouds swirling over our hockey. Even a couple of victories in Perth and in Melbourne will somewhat drive away the darkness. This is easily said than done.

In a genuine endeavour to be different from the usual rigmarole, the selection committee has charted a fresh course.

Bold and imaginative

The changes are bold and imaginative, notwithstanding the inevitable filament of risk and uncertainty.

No tears need be shed over the axing of a handful of veterans. Some had left their best years behind even before the Olympics in London.

Sreejesh stays because goalkeeper Chetri was not even invited for the camp. P.T. Rao of Services is a huge gamble.

While the decision to drop Sandeep Singh does raise eyebrows, the faith placed on Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh contains a thread of logic.

Both are capable drag-flickers and clearly edge out Sandeep Singh in the one-to-one tackle situation. Interestingly, coach Nobbs had utilised Rupinder as a forward also.

Sardar has Birendra Lakra, Manpreet and Kothajit to inject a semblance of solidity in the midfield. But the re-cast frontline, in the absence of Tushar and Shivendra, lacks in experience, though not necessarily in expertise.

Sunil, Chandi, Danish and Uthappa are skilful enough to give the required thrust. Yuvaraj Walmiki’s return adds to the striking power. The frontline would have been complete if Chinglensana Singh had got the nod.

India, placed in Pool ‘A’ with England, New Zealand and Olympic champion Germany, in the Champions Trophy has a huge task to obliterate the effects of devastation after finishing in the cellar in London.

One must not forget that the FIH has bent itself backwards to ensure India be part of this elite competition, conceived in 1976 to test the strength of the top six in the world.

The hockey fraternity is craving for a turning point. Where and when it will emerge remains in the realm of guesswork.

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