Hockey World Cup: When ‘PC king’ Rajinder Singh saw India fall at Kalinga | Hockey News

BHUBANESWAR: Nestled quietly in the West Stand of Kalinga Stadium, with no fanciful tournament ribbon around his neck, a Sikh gentleman appeared no different to the many other members of his hockey-loving turbaned community seated around him on Tuesday. Forty-one years ago, at Wankhede Stadium in Bombay, now Mumbai, Rajinder Singh was doing what India could not do consistently in this hockey world cup. He scored 12 penalty goals, a World Cup record for an Indian player.
Arms folded, 1980 Olympics gold medalist Rajinder watched the Belgians take on India’s crossover executioner, New Zealand. It reminded him of 1982 when, by the way, India beat New Zealand 3-2 in the seeding crossovers to finish fifth in the tournament. Here the team was relegated to fight in the playoffs from 9th to 16th place.

(Photo PTI)
But even before India were ousted from title contention here, something had set Rajinder off – an alleged snub from Hockey Indiawhich shattered the Dronacharya award winner as he watched some of India’s former stars get VIP treatment.
“I’m disappointed. I had to fight to get tickets, while no one in the federation responded to my attempts to contact me,” said the 65-year-old, who also won the triumph of the India in the 2001 Junior World Cup as a coach.
Rajinder also coached India after ending his playing career and is currently working with RoundGlass Sports in Chandigarh after retiring from Indian Railways. He was the coach at the 2003 Asian Cup, when current Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey was part of India’s back line and the team won the title beating Pakistan 4-2 finally.

Like all of India, Rajinder had high hopes from India captain and corner expert Harmanpreet Singh. He even thought that Harmanpreet had a chance to break his record.
At the time, the drag-flick had not yet been invented. The stopper used to enter the circle to stop the injection (push from the baseline), which reduces the distance between the ball and the goal post, making the direct hit more powerful. Rajinder was a master of the art.
“I had high hopes of Harman, as he would break my record. But it got so bad that the only goal he scored was when the opposition (Wales) pulled their goalkeeper out of goal,” Rajinder told

As many pundits have said since India’s loss in the crossovers, Rajinder is also of the opinion that calling a corner pundit just a month before the World Cup was a bad move and it disrupted the Harmanpreet’s pace, which also lacked support like it had before Rupinder Pal Singh retired.
Former Dutch drag flicker Bram Lomans worked with Indian PC experts for a week-long camp last December.
“Holding a penalty corner camp with an expert just a month before the World Cup may have confused Harman and he was totally absent from the World Cup,” Rajinder said. “I didn’t even see the team variations being effective every time they tried that from set pieces. We should have seen more (different) variations.”
He also disagreed with the idea that the team needs a mental trainer or a psychologist to deal with pressure situations. Rajinder said it was coach Graham Reid’s duty to play that role as well.
“I think the coach is responsible (for this fiasco). I read somewhere that the players were under mental stress. If that’s the case even after playing 200-250 matches, then I think the coach (did not play his role properly). He has nothing more to do with remaining the coach of the team,” Rajinder said without mincing his words.
He even pleaded for an Indian coach to be brought back to the helm, or at least groomed and educated to be next in line.
To Hockey India’s credit, the federation runs a “Coaching Education Pathway” program, but Rajinder argued that the trend of bringing in foreign coaches is still in vogue.
German Gerhard Rach was the first foreign hockey coach to reach Indian shores. Since then, Jose Brasa, Ric Charlesworth (director), Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh, Paul van Ass, Roelant Oltmans, Sjoerd Marijne and current coach Reid are now part of this list.
“Even while our Prime Minister was promoting ‘Make in India’. When are we going to apply this to hockey coaches?” Rajinder asked.
“It is the responsibility of Hockey India, to educate the coaches, to improve them and to identify the areas where they are lacking. do not trust the coaches available in the country.
“An Indian coach will be ready to put his life on the line for the team if he receives the same treatment.”
Indian hockey is entering a crucial phase, where the profits from the Hockey India League supply chain and the 2016 Junior World Cup triumph will be fully consumed by the Paris Olympics.
Only one Junior World Cup 2021 player, Vivek Sagar Prasad, is in this World Cup squad. And Vivek had already played for the senior team before leading the junior team.
“A crucial phase is approaching for Indian hockey. This current batch will be together until the Asian Games or maybe the 2024 Olympics… We should build a team for the future,” Rajinder said.
“Rising higher in the world rankings by playing in the Pro League, where many oppositions sometimes don’t field their first-choice players, is a false premise (to document growth). In my understanding, the performance of our team is still not at the level of the top four.”
Rajinder is a master at creating champions. Whether it’s Union Academy Delhi, the 2001 World Junior Champions or the 2003 Asian Cup winners, the swirl of his mustache grows straighter upon hearing these mentions.
On Wednesday, with some friends, he went sightseeing.
“I’m going to see Konark Temple,” he said.
“I hope to be back in time for the last two quarter-finals. Let’s see.”


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