Former India hockey captain Sardar Singh has called time on his 12-year international career, encouraging youngsters to take over the national side.
Sardar said he made the decision after a disappointing Asian Games where India failed to defend their title and had to settle for a bronze medal, leaving them out of the reckoning for direct qualification to the 2020 Olympic Games. With age and speed not on his side, Sardar's performance in the Games came under scrutiny.
"Yes, I have decided to retire from international hockey. I have played enough hockey in my career. Twelve years is a long time. Now it's time for the future generation to take over," Sardar told PTI.
"I took the decision after consultation with my family in Chandigarh, Hockey India and my friends. I think it's the right time to think about life beyond hockey."
Interestingly, during the Asian Games in Jakarta, Sardar had said he hoped to play till the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
However, he had a change of heart amid speculation that he was forced to retire after his name was dropped from the 25-strong core group of national campers announced by Hockey India on Wednesday.
Asked about the dropping from the camp, Sardar evaded the question and said he would formally announce his retirement during a press conference on Friday.
Sardar, 32, made his senior debut for India against Pakistan in 2006 and since then he has been a vital cog in the Indian team's midfield.
He made over 350 international appearances for India and captained the national team for eight years, from 2008 to 2016, before handing the responsibility to PR Sreejesh.
Sardar was also the youngest player to captain the Indian team, when he led the side at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. He received the Arjuna award in 2012 and Padma Shri in 2015. He has also represented India at two Olympics.
After being dropped from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games squad, Sardar worked hard on his fitness to fight back into the national team for the Champions Trophy, where India won a silver medal.
"Fitness is not the reason behind my decision. I am fit enough to play hockey for some more years. But there is always a time for everything and I feel it's time for me to move on in life," he said.
Sardar said he had conveyed his decision to chief coach Harendra Singh, adding he will continue to play hockey in the domestic circuit.