New Delhi: National team coach Michael Nobbs has termed the departure of Pakistani players from the Hockey India League a "shame" but said their absence will not affect the quality of play on display as there are a lot of other stars to watch out for.
"It's a shame. Ideally, politics should not be mixed with sports. But unfortunately it is mixed," a visibly disappointed Nobbs said.
Nine Pakistani players were sent back due to simmering tension on the Indo-Pak border over the killing of Indian soldiers.
However, Nobbs' response was a plain "not at all" when asked if the their absence would have any impact on the tournament.
"They were just nine players and franchises are allowed to pick their replacements. I am sure it won't affect the quality of the tournament," he said.
Nobbs, though, was unhappy that tournament would be deprived of such talented players from across the border.
The nine players who would be sent back are Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq, Imran Butt (Mumbai Magicians), Mohammed Rizwan Sr. and Mohammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders), Kashif Shah (Jaypee Punjab Warriors) and Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos).
The league ran into rough weather after the two Indian soldiers were beheaded by the Pakistan Army on January 8 in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir.