Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) has been one of the fancied sides in the Indian domestic hockey circuit. But BPCL has been conspicuous by their absence in the 38th Surjit Hockey Tournament that is being played at Jallandhar. BPCL have won the Surjit Hockey Tournament thrice – it had first won it 2002 pipping Punjab & Sind Bank. BPCL made it back-to-back wins when they won the 2003 edition getting the better of BSF Jalandhar. The last time they were champions in the Surjit Hockey Tournament was in 2009 when they put it across Indian Oil Mumbai. BPCL also made it to the final of the 2012 edition but they had lost to Indian Oil Mumbai – the only time they finished runner-up in their four final appearances.
BPCL’s absence in the 38th Surjit Hockey Tournament is largely owing to non-availability of players – most of whom are part of the national camp in Bengaluru. It may be mentioned here that BPCL has the likes of vastly experienced SV Sunil and Birendra Lakra in its ranks. Among the current crop of players, drag-flick spearhead Harmanpreet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Lalit Upadhyay, Varun Kumar and Shilanand Lakra are part of the senior team at the national camp in Bengaluru. BPCL also has a slew of junior scholarship players attending the ongoing junior national camp. “We just don’t have the players available to take part in the Surjit Hockey Tourney. As many as five players are attending the senior national camp while a number of our scholarship players are attending the junior national camp. We just have 7-8 regular players available and it does not make sense to go into a big tournament or for that matter any tournament with a depleted side,” said a source close to the BPCL hockey team.
One can understand the importance of the junior players attending the national camp given the fact that the Junior World Cup is happening in November. But the senior men’s hockey team does not have international engagements till February 2022 (Pro Hockey League) unless of course the postponed Asian Champions Trophy is held before that. It leads to a line of thinking whether releasing some of the senior players for premier domestic tourneys would have worked well for the players as there is nothing better than match practice.