New Delhi: Today the world celebrates greatest hockey player Major Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary, and 29 meritorious past and present Indian sportspersons will receive the national sports awards at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Among them will be Sardar Singh, one of the best central midfielders produced by India in hockey, receiving the biggest sports award in the country – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Also Read - Hockey | COVID-19 Experience Made me Mentally Stronger, Says India Men's Captain Manpreet Singh

The former India captain is only the second hockey player to receive the award. Dhanraj Pillay is the other, who received the Khel Ratna in 1999-2000. Besides Sardar, two-time Paralympics gold medallist Devendra Jhajharia will also be conferred upon the Khel Ratna. Also Read - Hockey | Systematic Approach And Two-way Communication Key to Rise in World Rankings: SV Sunil

The 31-year-old Sardar Singh made his international debut in 2006 as a rookie in the bilateral home Test series against archrivals Pakistan and has since then completed 285 international caps. Also Read - Hockey: Rani Rampal on Becoming First Woman Player to Get Khel Ratna, Dedicates Her Award to The Corona Warriors

He also received the Padma Shri in 2015.

Coming from Sirsa in Haryana, the star midfielder’s biggest achievement has been the gold medal India won under his captaincy at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. But he must have rued missing the 2016 Champions Trophy in London, when India claimed their maiden silver medal at the tournament.

Having said that, controversies too have been part of Sardar’s otherwise decorated career that is now more than a decade old.

In 2011, Sardar and his then team-mate Sandeep Singh left the national camp after an alleged rift with then coach Michael Nobbs. Besides that, allegations and police complaints of assault by his alleged fiancee Ashpal Bhogal – a British resident and hockey player of Indian origin, have also tarnished his career.

Sardar was removed as captain ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, replaced by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

These controversies, in fact, also led to a debate whether Sardar should get the country’s top sports award. But the committee and Sports Minister Vijay Goel chose to reflect only upon his hockey career.

Sardar last featured in the Hockey World League Semifinals held in London and is currently part of the national camp being held in Bengaluru in preparation for the Asia Cup in Dhaka from October 11.

He has been working hard of late, having expressed a desire to play the Olympics for one last time at Tokyo 2020.

Sardar in Numbers:

Born: July 15, 1986

International Debut: Feb 17, 2006, Chandigarh, Test Match vs Pakistan in Bilateral Series

International Caps: 285

International Goals: 16

Last played: June 25, 2017, London, Classification Match vs Canada in Hockey World League

Achievements:

1. Youngest ever Indian Captain, appointed in May 2008 for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

2. Bronze Medal in Raipur Hockey World League –Nov 2015

3. Gold Medal in Incheon Asian Games- Oct 2014

4. Gold Medal in Hockey India League – 2014 (Delhi Waveriders) and 2016 (Punjab Warriors)

5. Silver Medal at the Commonwealth Games – Glasgow 2014

6. Silver Medal at the Asia Cup – 2013

7. Silver Medal at Commonwealth Games- Delhi 2010

Awards:

1. Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna – 2017

2. Padma Shree – 2015

(Stats provided by BG Joshi)