Last week, the hockey team performed a minor miracle by getting Indians to take their attention off cricket as it beat France to qualify for the London Olympics. Leading the attack was Sandeep Singh, who scored five goals in the final and 16 goals in the tournament. After winning the match, he celebrated his 26th birthday. Sandeep is the ex-captain of the national team, and plays as a full back and penalty corner specialist. He has scored 136 goals from 168 international matches.
Born in Kurukshetra, Haryana, he made his international debut in 2004 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Kuala Lumpur. He is a well-known drag-flicker, and at one time, was even said to have the best speed in Drag Flick at 145 kmph. He has a neat, clean style of hitting penalty corners with quick-silver reflexes, and a success rate of 80 per cent at penalty corners. Under his captaincy, the Indian team won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 after almost 13 years. Sandeep was the top scorer in that tournament.
Singh has seen some ups and downs. There was a freak shooting accident in 2006 when a railway police force jawan accidentally shot the player aboard the Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi Express. But Sandeep survived and was fit enough to play the World Cup in Germany. He had also been threatened with disciplinary action in 2011 when he walked out of the Indian hockey camp in Bangalore abruptly. He had cited “personal problems”, but there were rumours that it was because he had been offered money to shift base to Belgium.
Last week, he redeemed himself and was the hero of the tournament. “I owe my success to all my teammates... Had there been no moves, there would not have been any penalty corners. Then, how would I have scored the goals,” he was quoted as saying.