Once a rebel, Gurjinder a key cog in India's hockey wheel
At 18, Gurjinder Singh was a hockey multi-millionaire, never mind he was paid less than half the amount he was entitled to for playing in the lone edition of the World Series Hockey (WSH) last year.
Now the drag-flicker is not thinking of the unpaid money, he is happy he no longer has that rebel tag and has been rehabilitated in the mainstream hockey.
What's more, he is a key cog in the national team's scheme of things. Since his return to the India team, Gurjinder played in the Hockey World League Round 2 and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
His performance in the ongoing Junior World Cup here was impressive, though for no fault of his the team made an early exit. He scored four goals from three games, but he could not help the team go beyond the preliminary league.
Gurjinder is on a high now, but he has no regrets playing in the WSH.
"The seniors encouraged us to play in the WSH, telling us when we have a chance to play in the big league we should grab it. Ramandeep Singh also came along with me and he is also a great player," Gurjinder told IANS.
Gurjinder doesn't want to think about his upaid WSH dues. He is happy to be known as the star of the pro league, winning the awards for the most valuable player and highest goal scorer.
The youngster, who hails from Batala town in the the Gurdaspur district of Puinjab, was to get Rs.1 crore for being the valuable player and Rs.12.5 lakh for emerging as the highest goal scorer. In all he has been paid just Rs.43 lakh.
Gurjinder says the remaining Rs.69.5 lakhs was too little a price he had to pay for donning the Indian jersey.
"I called the WSH and organisers Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) people several times, but later on I stopped chasing them. When I came back into the India fold and got my India jersey, I forgot about the money. This is what we play for," he said.
It was a word of advice from former India international Prabhjot Singh that prompted Gurjinder to stop thinking of the WSH dues.
"They (WSH) kept dilly dallying. Then I spoke to Prabhjot, who was part of champion team Sher-e-Punjab. He told me that they haven't been paid yet. The message was pretty clear, if the champion team has not been paid, how can I expect to be paid," said Gurjinder, who scored 19 goals for Chandigarh Comets to become the joint top-scorer of the WSH with Pakistan's Imran Warsi of Chennai Cheetahs.
Players signed up for WSH were banned by Hockey India (HI), but they were later offered amnesty. Gurjinder was quick to grab the offer and after being rehabilitated he hasn't looked back. He remains the only WSH rebel to be selected for the national squad.
Gurjinder thanked HI secretary general Narinder Batra for reinstating him.
"I am happy to play for India and I don't want anything else. Batra sahab has supported the juniors, including me, a lot. He saw me playing in some domestic tournaments where I played well and scored heavily. He was impressed with me and here I am playing for India," said Gurjinder, who is employed with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
Gurjinder said he is now an improved drag-flicker, thanks to penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh.
Gurjinder, who practices 250-300 drag flicks on alternate days, modestly says his teammates deserve as much for setting him up to score all those goals.
"Sandeep has helped me a lot and I keep picking his brains. He can easily point out the weak points of the goalkeepers. He closely watches my games and is always there to help rectify my mistakes. I follow his advice and try to implement his ideas," said Gurjinder.
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 12-12-2013)