NEW DELHI: On Monday, the number of players in the Indian men’s hockey team to contract Covid-19 reached six, when the Sports Authority of India (SAI) revealed that striker Mandeep Singh‘s test result has also returned positive. Last week, five other players, including captain Manpreet Singh, had tested positive. The development has raised questions over the decision to assemble the players for the national camp in Bengaluru, while the city is witnessing a spike in the number of coronavirus-positive cases.
On August 7, Manpreet, Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Jaskaran Singh and Krishan Pathak were found positive for Covid-19, after all the players were tested before being quarantined upon their arrival. However, all five have only been mildly symptomatic and are improving under medical supervision at the SAI’s National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru. Mandeep, though, is currently asymptomatic.
“It (national camp) could have been avoided. There was no hurry,” former India captain and Olympic gold-medallist Zafar Iqbal told Timesofindia.com.
“Teams like Australia and others assemble maybe for a week or 10-15 days (before a tournament). That’s all, and rest they (players) do on their own. The coaches instruct about how they should keep fit (while at home), how much to run, what skill to practice, etc.,” he added.
“A camp is for combination…and our boys have not just started playing hockey. I was not comfortable with the decision to call the camp, but it’s their decision. But it should be taken according to the (pandemic) situation,” Iqbal, a former captain and a member of the 1980 Olympic gold medal-winning team, added.
The camp, which was earlier scheduled to begin on July 19 after a month-long break for the players, was postponed to August 4. The players left for their homes in June after spending almost three months under lockdown in Bengaluru.

Ashok Kumar, a member of India’s 1975 World Cup-winning team and son of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand, echoed Iqbal’s sentiments.
“In case the Asian Champions Trophy (scheduled for November 17 to 27 this year in Dhaka) is not happening, then there was no need for the camp as of now. The players could have followed the exercise regimen and instructions at home. Now six players have caught the virus, which is kind of an alarm bell,” Kumar said talking to Timesofindia.com.
Besides the Asian Champions Trophy, which could still be postponed or cancelled, India’s next international fixture as per the current schedule is on April 10 in 2021, when Manpreet and his team resume their Pro League campaign away in Argentina, followed by matches in Europe and finally at home against New Zealand before the rescheduled Olympics in July-August 2021.
“There is no harm to wait and watch. These boys are experienced now, they know what their coach wants. The players will follow instructions at home because they are the ones who have to play the forthcoming tournaments,” Kumar further said.

Former India goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza, however, sounded a little guarded about his opinion on the matter.
“I can’t say whether it was a wise call or not; but in terms of training, I am sure SAI must have looked at many aspects,” D’Souza told Timesofindia.com.
The calls for the national camps across sports are currently being taken by SAI exclusively as the national sports federations stand derecognised after a Delhi High Court order in relation to compliance with the National Sports Development Code.
D’Souza, however, did admit that holding the camp at this time was a “risky decision”.
“It was a risky decision, let’s face it. But with none of the players seriously infected, it is not something to regret. There could be chances of players getting infected back home. Camp is a safer place in terms of discipline,” he further told TimesofIndia.com.
According to an update provided by SAI, the players are being attended to by SAI’s in-house doctor, as well as one doctor from the Karnataka State Government, who has been assigned on SAI’s request. Additionally, SAI has got on board expert doctors from Manipal Hospital.





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