Sardar Singh and Sandeep Singh are best of friends on and off the field but the current India captain sounded realistic as he said that it will be a tall order for the out-of-favour dragflicker to make it to the World Cup-bound squad.
Sardar said it was heartening to witness healthy competition for places in the Indian hockey team at present, which means no player is a sure-shot pick for the World Cup to be held at The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15.
"It is good to see tough fight for spots in the team. So no player, how experienced he is, can be certain about his place in the team. Even though I am the captain my place too is not guaranteed," Sardar said in an interview before leaving for a preparatory tour to Europe.
"There is immense competition in the team. There are 3-4 players in every position which is healthy for Indian hockey," he said.
"Sandeep is out of the team for quite a while now. But he is a class act and has shown his prowess in the Hockey India League, where he became the top-scorer for the second consecutive time. But frankly speaking, it would be tough for Sandeep (to seal a berth in World Cup team). He needs to put in more hard work and come with performance in the ongoing national camp to be in contention," Sardar observed.
Citing his own example, Sardar said even though he is currently the captain of the side, his place in the squad is not certain.
"Not only Sandeep it will be tough for every player to make it to the team, including me. At the end of the day it will depend on form and fitness," the ace mid-fielder said.
Gearing up to present a strong challenge at the upcoming event, a 21-member Indian team early this morning left for The Hague to play five build-up games -- including two against World Cup hosts The Netherlands and one against Belgium.
During the tour, India will also play two games against Dutch national clubs at the same turf where World Cup matches will be held.
Sardar felt the tour will be a make-or-break for many players, who are hoping to secure berths in the World Cup squad.
"The tour will be a good exposure for us ahead of the World Cup because we will play and train on the same pitch and we are hoping to reap rich dividends out of it. The tour will give us an idea about the climatic conditions and most importantly the pitch," the skipper said.
"It will also provide a golden opportunity to all the 21 players to cement their places in the World Cup squad. It will give us a chance to test our strengths and weaknesses and depending on the performances in the tour, some players may even also lose their places," Sardar said.
In the past Sardar had stressed on the need of a sports psychologist with the team as India has a tendency to succumb under pressure situations.
And he said chief coach Terry Walsh has taken it upon himself to address the area.
"We don't have a psychologist but Walsh is working on that area. He has immense experience on that front. He is frequently conducting one-to-one sessions with the players and emphasizing on the need to be mentally strong," Sardar said.
"We all are having our lunch, dinner and outings together and it has helped in building co-ordination among players which is very important in team game," he signed off.