WSH kicks off today sans stars

Chandigarh: The World Series Hockey (WSH) today suffered a big blow with India players, including skipper Sardar Singh and star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, likely to skip the inaugural cash-rich tournament beginning here tomorrow.

Chandigarh Comets take on Bhopal Badshahs, led by Sardar Singh, in the inaugural match here tomorrow and coaches of both the teams lamented that the “standoff” between Hockey India (HI) and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was not helping the cause of players and the sport.

Addressing separate news conferences this evening at the Sector 42 hockey stadium here, coaches of the two teams said players were mature enough and they must take their own call to participate or not in the WSH over month-long tournament.

Comets’ coach Harendra Singh said he had tried to talk to his players P R Sreejesh, Sarvanjit Singh and Birendra Lakra, but so far had received no reply from them regarding their participation.

“The India players have not reported to the camp yet. Bringing players is not in my domain. I will proceed with whatever I have and that’s my job as a coach,” he said.

Asked about skipper Rehan Butt, who leds Chandigarh Comets, Harendra claimed he will be reaching here tomorrow from Pakistan, but his participation also remains doubtful considering the tournament is starting tomorrow itself.

Upset at reports that top Indian players would not participate in the World Hockey Series beginning tomorrow, former India captain Dhanraj Pillay on Tuesdayslammed International Hockey Federation for “interfering” in the lucrative league and accused both FIH and Hockey India of playing “dirty” politics.

“It is disappointing that even FIH is interfering in a domestically-organised WSH,” he told reporters here at the Jersey launch of the ‘Karnataka Lions’ team here.

FIH Chief Leonardo Negre has been maintaining that it cannot give sanction to the WSH until the two warring factions — Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation — reach an agreement.

FIH’s “ambiguous” stance on the issue has confused players and officials, Pillay said.

“HI should not have raised any objection for WSH since it will provide a platform for young hockey players to shopwcase their talent… It will also bring money to players,” he said.

Pillay said both HI and FIH are playing “dirty” politics and spoiling the prospects of improving and making hockey competitive. (PTI)