The attacking midfielder was India’s best player in the first two matches.

Hosts India have suffered a major setback in their pursuit of the long-elusive Hockey World Cup medal. Attacking midfielder Hardik Singh, who suffered an injury during India’s goalless draw against England on Sunday, is reportedly now ruled out from the hosts’ final Pool stage game against Wales casting doubts over his availability in the remainder of the tournament as well.

According to a report in the Times of India, Hardik suffered a hamstring injury in India’s second match in Pool D and has been ruled out from the third and final group stage match against Wales. The report also states that there is a serious question mark over his future availability in the tournament.

The 23-year-old Arjuna awardee was India’s primary creative outlet in the first two fixtures. His solo goal in the opener against Spain is one of the most talked about goals of the tournament. Singh’s injury will be a huge blow to deal with for coach Graham Reid as the Men in Blue will have to outscore Wales by a big margin if they have to top the group, currently falling behind England on goal difference. 

The match between India and England was end-to-end as both the teams went all out creating multiple chances. Although India failed to make the Three Lions pay, Singh’s press resistance, vision and technical superiority was a constant menace for the opponents. He pulled his right hamstring in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and had to be helped out of the pitch.

India coach Graham Reid on Hardik Singh’s hamstring injury

Reid applauded the team for its defensive resilience and attacking mentality. “Both teams will feel that way when the match ends in a 0-0 draw. A lot of opportunities were available to both sides. It was a missed opportunity, we need to get better results in the circle. But I am happy with the fight and commitment shown today.

“It was a nice game to watch, there was a lot of high-skill hockey played. Both teams will be in high stead for the next match,” said the coach after the match. When asked about Singh’s injury, the coach had said with gloom in his voice, “I have to check. But it’s not looking good.”

On Tuesday (January 17), Hockey India released a statement saying Hardik Singh will undergo an MRI in Bhubaneswar and the results of the MRI will determine his availability. “On basis of the MRI results, the team management will assess the extent of his hamstring injury and take a call on his availability for the India Vs Wales match,” said the statement.

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Latest reports suggest the injury is not as serious as initially thought. Hardik was seen doing strengthening exercises during team India’s practise session. However, uncertainty remains over his availability for the Wales match on Thursday. Although he could be available for the knockout stages.

In the absence of Singh, Rajkumar Pal is likely to be named as his replacement said the report in TOI. Pal and Jugraj Singh were both named as the two reserve players for India. If Rajkumar Pal joins the squad, that will mean the end of Hardik Singh’s spell in the tournament. The FIH tournament regulations clearly state that once an injured player is replaced by someone from the reserves, they cannot be reinstated in the team.

The president of the governing body of International Hockey Tayyab Ikram, spoke about reviewing injury-related issues in the sport in a press conference on Sunday.

Ikram said that the parent body is currently reviewing the penalty corner-related rules as injury threat looms large during routine. The original rule was that the players would have to remove their protective gear as soon as the flick was taken. The rule has since been updated to allow the players to keep their gears on till the 23-meter area.

Ikram said, “At the moment, it (reviewing penalty corners) is under study. For us, the first thing is athletes’ safety and we are working on it. The key things are the high-intensity, speed of the ball, and skill development on drag flick and the speed it produces. We are discussing how we can get better without increasing time but giving a little bit more time for the defenders to react.”

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