India’s iconic hockey player and former team captain, Sardar Singh, announced his retirement late on Wednesday. The hockey veteran, who made over 300 appearances for the country, has decided to hang his boots and make way for youngsters in the team.
Reportedly, Sardar made the decision after a disappointing show at the Asian Games. India failed to defend its title and returned with just a bronze medal. With age and speed not on his side, Sardar's performance at the Games was under the scanner. "Yes, I have decided to retire from international hockey. I have played enough hockey in my career. 12 years is a long time. Now it's time for the future generation to take over," Sardar told journalists on Wednesday.
Sardar has conveyed his decision to enter retirement to his chief coach Harendra Singh. However, he added that he will continue to play hockey in the domestic circuit. "I took the decision after consultation with my family in Chandigarh, Hockey India and my friends. I think it's the right time to think about life beyond hockey," he added.
It was only recently, during the Asian Games in Jakarta this year, that Sardar had said he still has hockey left in him and desires to play one last Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo. However, his decision to end his illustrious international career may have come after his name was dropped from the 25-strong core group of national campers announced by the Hockey India on Wednesday.
The talented player from Haryana made his international debut against Pakistan in Chandigarh in 2006. From then on, there was no looking back for Sardar and after a brilliant performance and his vision for the game, he was made the captain of the team in 2008. He captained the team from 2008 to 2016 after handing over his reins to PR Sreejesh.
With age, he slowed down but Sardar is still considered one of the fittest players in the Indian team. "Fitness is not the reason behind my decision. I am fit enough to play hockey for some more years. But there is always a time for everything and I feel it's time for me to move on in life," he said. A born fighter, Sardar came back strong after being dropped from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games squad. He worked hard on his fitness and made his way back into the national team for the Champions Trophy, in which India won a silver medal.
In his glorious career, Sardar has represented India in two Olympics. He was also the youngest player to captain Indian team at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Sardar received Arjuna award in 2012 and Padma Shri in 2015 for his contribution to the nation.
Sardar's career was not devoid of controversy either. He was accused of rape by an Indian-origin British woman, a charge he vehemently denied and was also given a clean chit by the special investigation team of Ludhiana Police.