It must have been deeply disappointing for Akashdeep Singh to miss the Tokyo Olympics bus. His omission from the Olympic squad was very much on unexpected lines. But the 26-year-old talented forward has a great opportunity to resurrect his international hockey career – he has been named among the 30 core probables for the men’s hockey team national camp that is currently underway at the SAI South Centre, Bengaluru.
Former India centre-forward and two-time Olympian Jagbir Singh puts things in perspective. “At an individual level, Akashdeep not being part of the Tokyo Olympics was a surprise to me but having said that, we must not lose sight of the fact that every coach would have their line of thinking and what team combination they would want for any particular tournament. It is possible that the coach was looking for players, who are willing to offer more options in various positions and Akashdeep probably did not fit into the coach’s scheme of things,” says former two-time Olympian and centre-forward Jagbir Singh.
Jagbir – a respected voice in Indian hockey circles – thinks that Akashdeep must be more motivated than ever to prove his worth to the national side. “Akashdeep has to take the latest camp call-up as a challenge and let his performance do the talking at the national camp. The onus lies with him to prove people who matter that he is not just good enough to be part of the 30 core probables but one who deserves a spot in the final 16 or even in the final XI,” he says matter-of-factly.
It won’t be easy for Akashdeep to break into the final squad as the forwardline has cut-throat competition with the likes of Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh, Simranjit Singh and Gurjant Singh doing their part at Tokyo Olympics – two more newcomers – Gursahibjit Singh and Shilanand Lakra are also in the fray. “It won’ be smooth sailing for Akashdeep with so many youngsters fighting for places, but he can take this camp call-up as an opportunity to make a statement.”
Akashdeep’s international comeback could be the Asian Champions Trophy, which was slated to be held in Bangladesh in October, being put off for now. There is talk doing the rounds that the tourney will be held in December. If the event is called off, then the Pro Hockey League will be the next international stop for the national team and for the Punjab Police DSP.
Akashdeep, who has made more than 150 international appearances, has been in and out of the national side prior to his axing from the Tokyo Olympic squad. He was not picked for the Pro Hockey League matches in Argentina but did play in the Europe tour earlier this year, where he had scored once in India’s big 6-1 win over Germany. Last year, Akashdeep played in the Pro Hockey League matches against Australia and the Netherlands but was dropped for the Pro Hockey League matches against Belgium.