Monday, August 7, 2017
Thanks for the memories, Baljit...
By Jugjet Singh
THANKS for the memories Malaysia!
These were Baljit Singh Charun's parting words to Malaysian hockey, marking the exit of the last standing Sikh.
The memories were good initially, but towards the end, he faced some terribly testing times which he rather forget.
"There is no more reason for me to hang around the training squad, as the coach (Stephen ven Huizen) keeps avoiding me regarding his future plans with me.
"Also, if I am not good enough to represent the country in the Sea Games, that shows the level of confidence the selectors have in me," said Baljit.
Sea Games is the lowest category for World No 12th ranked Malaysia, and even with a juniors outfit, the country beat a senior Singapore side to the gold medal at their own turf in 2015.
Baljit joined Tenaga Nasional 2004 and helped them to three overall titles in the Malaysia Hockey League in 2004, 2007 and 2009. He made his senior international debut at the 2007 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
After which he helped the country win silver at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, and played in many other tournaments including the gold at the 2013 Sea Games.
"Things changed after I helped Malaysian qualify for the Hague World Cup (2014). I gave everything I had in the qualifier (World League Semifinals in Johor 2013) to help the country finish fifth and qualify for the World Cup on merit.
After the Johor WL Semifinals, the coaching circle was in a turmoil as chief coach Paul Revington came under severe personal and professional attack and decided to leave in a huff.
In came K. Dharmaraj, and Baljit's exit from the sport started.
"After playing one of the best tournaments in my life and qualifying for the World Cup, I felt that the break that I was looking for has finally arrived.
"I'm going to play in a World Cup."
But it was not to be. As from being among the top-three defenders in Revington's squad, Baljit became a shadow in Dharmaraj's team.
And shockingly he was replaced with German-born Kevin Lim, whom Dharmaraj saw playing only once in a tournament in Australia.
Baljit's nightmare started the day he was told that Kevin Lim would be replacing him in the Hague World Cup.
There was a twist of faith when the team arrived at the Hague and after playing a friendly game a few days before the World Cup, Kevin Lim pulled a hamstring and coach Dharmaraj sent an S.O.S to the team management for a replacement.
Instead of Baljit, Dharmaraj asked for Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin. It was only days ago that Izad had just recovered from being hospitalised, but was rushed to the Hague where he arrived in the morning and played in the evening against Australia -- naturally losing 4-0.
Malaysia, in the end, lost all their matches at the Hague and the nail was a 6-2 drubbing in the hands of South Africa in the 11-12th classification.
"After the World Cup, I was consistently sidelined and told to give hockey up. And not being selected for Sea Games is the final straw," said Baljit.
Moved from field to indoor training for the Sea Games, and then not even selected for the new event, coach Paul Lissek summed it up.
"Baljit is still a very good player in my books, but he badly wanted to play field hockey and his heart was not with the indoor game," said Lissek who has been roped in by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation as consultant to the indoor men's and women's team.
Once the back-bone of the Malaysian team since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics till a decade ago, Baljit's exit marks a sad era in the country's Sikh hockey history.