It was an emotional moment for Vikram Kanth, who returned to the National hockey camp after four years. For Sandeep Singh and Gurbaj Singh, it was reward for hard work away from the limelight.
The talented Vikram suffered during the transition phase, involving a tussle between the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI).
After being named among the 33 probables for the upcoming World Cup in the Netherlands, Vikram was thrilled. “Being part of the National camp itself is an emotional moment for me. I had been working towards it for a long time,” Vikram told The Hindu on Tuesday.
“I always had the frustration of not being part of the National camp. After the Chile disaster, the players were divided between IHF and HI and there was a restriction on players participating in the World Series Hockey (WSH).
“Being part of my departmental team, Indian Oil, was an advantage as we played a lot of domestic tournaments. My performance in the Hockey India League (HIL) also helped.”
The 28-year-old midfielder, who could also work as a defender, admitted that it would be a challenge for him to compete with the youngsters.
Sandeep, who was left out after India’s lacklustre performance in the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinals in Rotterdam last year, and Gurbaj, who was out of favour after the country’s forgettable 12th place finish in the 2012 London Olympics, used their time away from the National team to complete their training leading up to their employment with Haryana Police.
Sandeep, who scored 11 goals for Jaypee Punjab Warriors to emerge the top-scorer in the HIL, said, “I played for 60 to 65 minutes in most of the matches.
“I learned a lot while playing alongside Mark Knowles, one of the best defenders in the world. According to an analysis, my defending skills were 50 per cent better this time. I also worked on my drag-flicks.”
With his superb passing and tireless work, right-half Gurbaj played a key role for HIL champion Delhi Waveriders. “I put in a lot of hard work. I improved my game, such as moving fast to defend as well as attack. My fitness was the main reason of my success in HIL,” he said.
The probables: Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Harjot Singh, Sushant Tirkey.
Defenders: Gurbaj Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Birendra Lakra, Gurmail Singh, Kothajit Singh, Gurjinder Singh, Gurinder Singh, Sandeep Singh, Vikram Kanth.
Midfielders: S.K. Uthappa, Dharamvir Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Satbir Singh, Devinder Walmiki, Vikas Pillay, Jasjit Singh.
Forwards: Nikkin Thimmaiah, Nithin Thimmaiah, S.V. Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Yuvraj Walmiki, Talwinder Singh, Lalit Upadhyay.