This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The non-exclusion of seasoned striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi in the 21-member Indian squad for the upcoming four Test series against Australia has triggered hushed whispers about whether his form led to the national hockey selectors wielding the axe on him. It may be pointed out that Chandi, who made a comeback to the national fold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games after being out of competitive action for more than a year and a half owing to a prolonged ankle injury, by his own prolific ways had a pretty subdued Asian Games campaign in Incheon.
The 25-year-old Punjab forward failed to find his name on the scoresheet in any of the matches at Incheon, save for the pulsating shootout in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan, where he successfully converted to help his country corner glory. The ONGC employee, however, did score twice in his comeback tourney – Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He found the target in India’s 3-1 win over Wales in their tournament opener and later rattled the Scottish cage in India’s massive 6-2 triumph. But there was little doubt that Chandi was not at his best. To be fair to him, hitting the straps after a long injury-induced lay-off is never easy and the hitman was clearly not effective as one would expect him to be.
National hockey selection committee chairman and former India centre-forward BP Govinda feels it would be wrong to say that Chandi was axed. “Look, it is never easy to hit top form when you are making a comeback after a long absence. Chandi is our key player and we thought it will be wise to allow him rest so that he settles into some kind of form without exerting too much pressure on him. The Aussie trip will be more of a learning curve and we are sending 21 boys, and at the same time hope Chandi uses the rest period to work on his rehab and get better and better.”
Govinda reckons Chandi is part of the plans for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “Since he is part of the 33 core players, he is very much part of the 2016 Olympics program, so we want to handle him judiciously.”
The 21-member squad has the likes of Satbir Singh among a few others. But the names of Affan Yousuf and Yuvraj Walmiki – both hailing from Mumbai as well as Nitin Thimmiaah are missing. What’s Govinda’s take on the duo? “We have picked every player on merit. Affan Yousuf is down with typhoid while Yuvraj does not fit into our scheme of things now. As for Nitin Thimmiaah he broke his arm during the India ‘A’ team’s tour of Bangladesh and is recuperating.”
All and said done, Indian hockey would hope that Gurwinder Singh Chandi comes out all guns blazing and help further shore up the forwardline so that the Blueshirts are a potent force heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics.