Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continues to face the axe from Indian team despite emerging as the highest scorer in inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) with chief coach Michael Nobbs saying that the former skipper has to "reinvent" himself as a defender if he desires to make a comeback in the national side.
Nobbs said penalty corner conversions alone can't guarantee Sandeep a place in the national team as he has to improve his key area of the game, i.e. defence, by leaps and bounds to earn his spot back.
"He (Sandeep) might have scored 11 goals but you need to see how many penalty corners he has managed to utilize," Nobbs told PTI in an exclusive chat.
"All the selectors were unanimous in their decision that he hasn't improved in his key area. The players we have got at the moment are better than Sandeep. He is job is to keep the goals away but he is lacking in that area," he said.
"Everybody who has performed well here (in the HIL) has been rewarded with a place in the national team.
"But there is still opportunity for him to make a comeback. It's a long season ahead. If he plays well and reinvents himself there is always an opportunity to get back in the team," the Australian said.
Sandeep was not included in the Lanco International Super Series and Champions Trophy in Australia last November and even in the upcoming Hockey World League Round 2, he has been kept only in the standby list. Nobbs was of the view that the five-team HIL has been a blessing in disguise for Indian hockey.
The chief coach feels the league has unearthed many young talents, including Mandeep Singh, who has emerged as the most promising player of the tournament.
"I started to follow the league from the later stages. The league is fantastic. Its is great for Indian hockey. An example is Mandeep Singh and his 10 field goals. It is a remarkable achievement for a young player like him," he said.
"Malak Singh, Amit Rohidas are some other young players. Besides there a lot of junior players who have played well and played very good hockey against the top players in the world.
"The way the junior players have evolved from this tournament has been the big bonus for Indian hockey," Nobbs insisted.
Asked about he national team's preparation for the Hockey World League 2 to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi from February 18 to 24, Nobbs said: "We have got two really tough games. Ireland and China are not pushovers. But what I expect is that those who played well here to carry on their performance in the World League."