Disappointed with the state of Indian hockey right now, three-time Olympic gold-medallist and former captain Balbir Singh (Sr) feels among the current lot of players, only Sardar Singh would have found a place in the Indian teams that competed in the golden era.
In an interaction with PTI journalists, Balbir spoke of his utter dejection at the game’s current state and the issues plaguing Indian hockey.
“Sardar Singh is the only player of that standard. Not all of them. Had other players been as good as Sardar Singh, then they would have been somewhere at the top,” Balbir said of the halfback, who was the only Indian to be named in the FIH’s world XI recently.
The octogenarian, who will turn 90 later this month, holds the world record for most number of goals by an individual in an Olympic final, an astonishing five that he scored in the 1952 summit clash against the Netherlands.
Revered as the greatest centre forward to have played the game after the iconic Dhyan Chand, Balbir said the current set of players don’t have the skills to match the ones who made India an eight-time Olympic gold-medallist.
“If they had the skills, they would have won. They can be at the top again. Practice is the only key, not only schemes, not only money, the players need to develop individual skills, and practice hard,” Balbir said.
“They can come up to the standard provided they try and follow the latest rules, follow their coaches, we need highly paid coaches, highly qualified coaches. Then we should be at the top, among the top 4-5 team,” he added.
“Practice, it’s the key...there were times when we used to score from penalty corners. Individual training is important. Time and again, we used to practice penalty corners. Excellence is not an art but a habit,” he said.
Besides, Balbir said he also senses a lack of desire to excel among those playing the game now.
“They are money-minded these days. That is normal also because money is required. Money is very important,” he said.