Jakarta: When you beat India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli’s record in a yo-yo test to gauge fitness, then you ought to be in the news.

Thirty two-year-old Indian hockey midfielder Sardar Singh is currently hogging limelight for doing so ahead of the 18th Asian Games, where India is looking to defend their title.

Singh’s yo-yo test results of 21.4 easily beat Kohli’s score of 19 but no, he wasn’t trying to prove a point against India’s cricket captain — one of the fittest sportsmen on planet today.

It was a fight with himself after repeatedly being given the cold shoulder by Hockey India when the team was under current Women’s Team coach Sjoerd Marijne.

Singh, who was recalled in the side for the Champions Trophy in Netherlands when current coach Harendra Singh took charge, was sidelined after India’s poor show in the 2018 Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy where he led a second string side after several senior players were sidelined.

No concrete reason was given but Chinese whispers declared him to be ‘ageing and fast losing pace’. It was clearly a bitter pill for Singh to swallow. “I didn’t expect that I will be out of the team so soon as I knew I was playing well. But when you are out of the team for a couple of tournaments then you start questioning yourself,” Singh said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

“I don’t know why I was dropped on the fitness ground but every coach has his strategies and plans I guess. My beep test of 21.4 was my best ever and it came because of the hard work I put in after asking ‘why I’m out’,” says Singh, adding, “Especially, at a time when I had played close to 300 matches then and by then one clearly knows where your strengths and weakness lay or are you giving your best.”

According to Singh, the only grey area where he needed to improve when he was dropped was to jell with the new players who were coming up the ranks. “Speed and mental strength was always there, but yes it is a little bit difficult to adjust with the new players straight away. After I was recalled once Harendra Singh came back as head coach, I sat with the boys off the field and started to adjust things to suit their style of play as well,” recalled Singh.

“Family and friends were always there to support me. When you have them rallying around you, then it becomes easy. Now I want to cash in on this opportunity and do well in the Asian Games by building on the success that we got in the Champions Trophy,” said Singh, who was the part of the Asian Games winning team in 2014.

Singh is confident that India can go on to retain their title and seal a direct berth for the Tokyo Olympics.

“We are a strong team on paper but we cannot take any team lightly. Everyone is eyeing a direct qualification and then they have two years’ time to prepare for it which is great. If we do exactly what duties our coach has given us, then I’m sure we can beat these teams with good margins,” asserted Singh, adding that they have not made any drastic change in the team strategy after coach Oltmans’ departure.

“It was the federation’s decision for a change of guard but Harendra Sir understands us better. He has watched us for 10 to 15 years and knows the strength and weakness of each individual. There is also proper communication now. That doesn’t mean that Oltmans was bad. He is one of the top coaches around.”