India hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne, on Friday, explained that he wanted to go into the game with what he felt was the best combination, stating that Sardar Singh was left out of the 19-man squad for the Hockey World League as he preferred to field fit-again Birendra Larka and Rupinder Pal Singh with Harmanpreet Singh in the backline.
“Sardar played the Asia Cup and he combined with Harmanpreet Singh at the back [defense],” Marijne told The Field. “Now, we want to field the combination of Harmanpreet [Singh] and Birendra Larka.”
The Dutchman, however, was also quick to point out that the 31-year-old has a future with the Indian team, insisting that he would be considered for future tournaments, as India prepare for the World Cup, which will be held on home soil in 2018,
“We have tried combinations with Sardar at defence. But now with Birendra and Rupinder coming back to the team 100% fit, we want to play this combination, which we think is the best. We have that many options,” the 43-year-old said.
This is not the first time that Sardar has been left out of the India side. Earlier, he was omitted by former coach Roelant Oltmans for the Europe tour, which was also his final assignment with the Indian team.
During the Asia Cup, which was Marijne’s first tournament with the men’s team, the veteran made a comeback and played in a withdrawn role as India romped to a title win.
Sardar’s latest setback prompted talks of whether it was the end of the road for the Sirsa-born midfielder. Marijne was quick to quash those rumours, “I never spoke about retirement at all. We have dropped him for this tournament only,” he said.
Marijne, though, did not make any promises of an immediate return for Sardar, who has earned 191 international caps, “First we want to watch this tournament and see how things pan out for the team. After that we will look further.”
India have a tough start in their tournament opener, playing Australia on December 1. Marijne’s side will play England and Germany in their subsequent round-robin games.