The former hockey captain of India, Sardar Singh, decided on Wednesday to mark the time of his illustrious career, saying he had played enough in the last 12 years and now is the time for young people to take charge. Sardar said he made the decision after a disappointing Asian Games in which India could not defend his title and returned with a bronze medal. With age and speed not on his side, Sardar's performance in the Games came under the scanner. "Yes, I've decided to retire from international hockey, I've played enough hockey in my career, 12 years is a long time, now is the time for the future generation to take control," Sardar told the PTI news agency.
"I made the decision after consulting 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.
Interestingly, during the Asian Games in Jakarta, Sardar said he still has hockey left and wishes to play a final Olympiad in 2020 in Tokyo.
However, he had a change of heart amid speculation that he was forced to withdraw after his name was removed from the group of 25-person national campers announced by Indian Hockey on Wednesday.
When asked about the abandonment of the camp, Sardar evaded the question and said he would formally announce his retirement during a press conference in the national capital on Friday.
Sardar made his senior debut with India against Pakistan in 2006 and since then has been a vital gear in the midfield of the Indian team.
The 32-year-old made more than 350 international appearances for India and was captain of the national team for eight long years from 2008 to 2016 before handing over responsibility to PR Sreejesh.
Sardar was also the youngest player to captain the Indian team when he led the team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2008. He received the Arjuna award in 2012 and Padma Shri in 2015.
Sardar has represented India in two Olympic Games.
Sardar will leave a rich legacy in sports. A fighter to the core, he came back strong after being eliminated from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team. He worked hard in his physical condition to roar again in the national team for the Champions Trophy, where India won a silver medal.
With age, it slowed down a bit, but Sardar is still considered one of the fittest players in the Indian team.
"Fitness is not the reason for my decision, I'm able to play hockey for a few more years, but there's always a moment for everything and I feel it's time to move on in life," he said.
Sardar said he conveyed his decision to head coach Harendra Singh, adding that he will continue to play hockey on the national circuit.
Coming from Sirsa in Haryana, Sardar's career was not free of controversy either.
Sardar was accused of rape by a British woman of Indian origin, an accusation that he vehemently denied and the Ludhiana police special investigation team also gave him a good flea.
(With PTI entries)