ESPN India Awards: Jury speak - Jagbir Singh

Hockey India

Jagbir Singh, one of the 14 members of the jury for the first ESPN India Awards, on his voting choices:

The things that I looked for in the winners were simple - first and foremost was consistency, instilling hope about future prospects and also how many of the sportspersons were carrying a message with their performances.

Among the men, [Kidambi] Srikanth was a standout performer. We have always been talking about Prakash [Padukone] and [Pullela] Gopichand, and the women have been dominating for quite some time, but with his consistent performances, he could achieve something not many men have achieved in the sport.

Consistently beating the top-ranked players in the world and winning four titles was a standout performance, even though there were other consistent performers like Shiv Kapur, but I don't think golf compares to badminton as yet. [Viswanathan] Anand has been one of the best comeback guys. He has been there for a while, but when we talk about the sportsperson of the year, we should talk about someone that has been winning and is the talk of the town. That way, Srikanth had to be the talk of the town.

In hockey, what was most important was that there was a change in guard for the women's team, and suddenly a coach that was previously coaching a men's side comes and coaches a women's side and gets them to perform so well - winning a tournament [Asia Cup] without losing a single match - calls for credit. This is why I rated Harendra [Indian women's team coach Harendra Singh] among my top picks for coach of the year.

What I like about Harendra is that he is straightforward, when it comes to a player-coach relationship. He would not hesitate to even shout or use language that was common in earlier days but nowadays players don't seem to like. He would do that because he is a taskmaster, and he wants results with the expectations he has in his mind. He knows how to bring the best out of a player. He would always pick players that fit to help the strategy of his style of play.

The top moment of the year for me was PV Sindhu's World Championship final. God, that was some rally! It was so exciting. Even though we all wish that she had won, but that's alright, because it's part of the game. The excitement was at its peak. What I liked most about her performance were her facial expressions, how she was challenging herself every time, then her fitness levels, and how she was looking out towards her coach. There's a changed Sindhu between Rio and now. She was a bit shy then, because she had not achieved as much and was probably under Saina Nehwal's shadow. Everybody probably expected Saina to do well and suddenly she did well. Now she knows what message she wants to give the other players - 'look, here I am.'

As told to Debayan Sen

Jagbir Singh: The former India hockey striker was part of the Indian team for two Olympics (Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) and two Asian Games in a career lasting 11 years from 1985 to 1996. He went on to become a respected commentator, columnist and one of the world's leading thinkers in modern hockey.