Midfielder Hardik Singh’s exclusion from the duration of the ongoing Hockey World Cup 2023 in Odisha dealt a severe setback to Team India. His successor has been announced as Raj Kumar Pal.
During the Pool D encounter against England, which finished in a 0-0 tie, Hardik suffered a hamstring injury. With a little more than three minutes remained in the game, Hardik had already hobbled off the field. Graham Reid, the head coach, said later in the news conference that it did not seem to be as serious as first thought.
However, following his MRI scan, Hardik was benched for the game against Wales because management did not want to further the injury.
Even though India defeated Wales convincingly (4–2), twin goal scorer Akashdeep Singh acknowledged that Hardik’s absence was felt by the team.
“When you have 18 players to play for a team, and because of some reason if you are one player less, the remaining players will play more time and become tired. So, definitely we felt his absence. I feel he will recover in time for the next match and play against New Zealand. It’s a do or die match against New Zealand. We are physically and mentally ready for the match,” he said.
“Overnight we had to make the painful decision of replacing Hardik Singh in the Indian Team for Sunday’s encounter against New Zealand and the remaining World Cup fixtures,” Coach Reid said in response to the Hardik decision.
“While the injury was not as severe as the initial incident suggested, time was not on our side and after our ongoing thorough rehabilitation process and functional and on-field assessment today, it has been decided that we will replace Hardik with Raj Kumar Pal. While it is extremely disappointing for Hardik personally of course, given how well he played in our first two matches, we are excited at the prospects of Raj Kumar joining the group for the remaining World Cup matches,” he added.
India placed second in Pool D, and to advance to the quarterfinals, it must now defeat New Zealand in the crossover match.