Hockey India on Wednesday revoked the two-year ban it had imposed on Sandeep Singh and Sardara Singh for their act of “indiscipline.” The two had walked out of the Indian team on the eve of its departure for China to participate in the Asian Champions Trophy, which India eventually won.

The two had left the camp without the permission of chief coach Michael Nobbs.

When announcing the decision to ban them on August 28, Hockey India Secretary-General Narinder Kumar Batra had claimed the action had become “necessary” to send a “strong message” in order to stop any recurrence of such “indiscipline.” The decision to ban them was said to be unanimous.

‘Unconditional apology'

The Appeals Committee, which met here on Wednesday, to hear Sandeep and Sardara, decided to grant a reprieve to the players who had tendered an “unconditional apology” in writing on the grounds that they were not completely at fault in the episode.

According to a spokesman of the HI, the committee kept in consideration the age, previous performances at the top level and the potential of the two players.

Sardara, a reliable midfielder, and Sandeep,a drag-flick expert, were found guilty of indiscipline on three occasions. They had first made themselves unavailable for the Azlan Shah tournament by opting to play in the Belgium league and then, during a camp, gone to Mumbai without official permission to attend an event organised by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).

The decision by the two players to pull out of the Asian Champions Trophy led HI to ban them.

The chief coach had openly disapproved of the players' indiscipline and made it a point to lavish praise on their replacements, V. Raghunath and Vikas Sharma, as India won the Asian Champions Trophy with an unbeaten record in the tournament.

The Appeals Committee, comprising Sports Authority of India executive director P.C. Kashyap, Government observers Harbinder Singh and Dilip Tirkey, athletes' representative Rajneesh Mishra and HI nominees Air Cmdr. Baladitya and Dr. Gurdeep Singh concluded that the players deserved a reprieve for being constantly “provoked and humiliated” by certain elements in the camp.

Mishra and Harbinder were part of the committee that had taken the decision to ban Sandeep and Sardara.

According to sources, Sardara and Sandeep promised complete “loyalty and commitment” to the team after they were told that this was the final “warning” to them and any future misconduct would invite a reinstatement of the ban.

Sardara and Sandeep would now be eligible to attend the trials for picking the team for the tour of Western Australia where the team is scheduled to play a series of matches during the three-week assignment beginning on October 12.

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