Sandeep Singh survived a fatal shooting and helped India win gold at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament in 2009. (Image credit: Sandeep Singh Twitter)
In many ways, Sandeep Singh's life typified the struggles of a common Indian in many walks of life. Right from trying to a mark in hockey during his formative days in Shahabad, Kurukshetra to being part of Indian Hockey's most turbulent decade, Sandeep has always marched ahead. In between, there was an accident which nearly finished Sandeep's dream but he came back even stronger and proceeded to give India glory. In 2019, with Sandeep joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the upcoming Haryana Assembly Polls, the journey from the hockey field to the political arena has begun.
During his young days, he was at the receiving end of some bullying from his coach Kartar Singh. The bullying went to such an extent that he almost gave up the sport for good. However, with his brother Bikramjeet Singh making some strides, he was determined to get the better of his brother. Through sheer determination, Sandeep started making a name for himself. In 2004, after years of hard work, he was selected in the Indian National Hockey team for the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur. Rather than the start of glory days, the period and the next couple of years would present the Haryana player with the most toughest days of his life.
India finished at the bottom of the table and it was not a good tournament for Sandeep. However, in 2006, his career almost ended. Sandeep was travelling on the Kalka Shatabdi Express to join his team-mates for the World Cup which was to be held in Monchengladbach, Germany. Sandeep was seriously injured after being hit just above the hip bone by an accidental gun shot by a Railway Protection Force officer. For one year, Sandeep was in hospital and his recovery period was incredibly painful.
Sandeep's accident also coincided with the total decline in Indian Hockey's fortunes. In the 2006 World Cup, India did not win any of their six games. However, they touched rock bottom when they lost 2-0 to England in the World Cup qualifying tournament in Santiago to miss qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was the first time in 80 years that India hockey failed to qualify for the Olympics.
The events in this period probably moulded Sandeep to achieve greater heights. He worked on his drag flick. During the 2009 to 2010 period, Sandeep's drag flicks clocked 145 kmph and he was given the nickname Flicker Singh. Such was his efficiency that he was at that time the best drag flicker in hockey. With India Hockey looking to bounce back, Sandeep was handed the captaincy reigns for the 2009 Azlan Shah Hockey Cup, a tournament where he had made his debut.
Sandeep was in prime form as India won against Malaysia and Pakistan while drawing against Egypt and New Zealand. In the final, India faced Malaysia and they won the tournament for the fourth time and first after 13 years. Sandeep scored six goals to lead from the front and was the player of the tournament. India could have had more glory in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi but they were hammered 8-0 by Australia to settle for silver.
Sandeep's recovery in the last couple of years, combined with how he changed Indian Hockey's fortunes made him a stalwart of Indian Hockey. In 2018, to honour Sandeep, a biographical film titled Soorma, starring Diljit Dosanjh and Taapsee Pannu was released. Having conquered many obstacles and achieving glory in hockey, the time is right for the 33-year-old to make a mark in India's politics.