Star Vanderput out but Grewal brothers in hockey squad
Grewal brothers finally get to play together
He was responsible for four of Singapore's seven goals at January's World League Round 2 (WLR2) tournament, including a belter that was the solitary bright spark in the hockey men's 16-1 loss to Malaysia.
But effervescent forward Ian Vanderput has been left out of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games squad.
Ishwarpal Singh Grewal and his younger brother Jaspal, both defenders, were included in the 18-man squad named by the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) yesterday as the men go into the final phase of preparation for the four-team hockey tournament that kicks off on June 6.
The tournament features firm favourites Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar, along with a Singapore side who finished seventh in the eight-team WLR2.
"Ian was very effective for us during the (WLR2), but he's struggling with a hamstring injury and we're not sure if he's going to recover in time for the Games," said SHF president Mathavan Devadas.
Devadas also co-chairs the federation's selection committee - along with Ramesh Appoo - that made the final decision on team selection.
"The coaching team and the committee made the decision to have players who are fit and ready for competition, and based on the number of strikers we have.
"We wanted to name the squad so we can start focusing and planning, but regulations allow us to make changes up to June 5."
Work commitments have seen the 27-year-old army officer struggle to commit to the team, but Vanderput took a mature approach to the situation.
"Obviously I'd like to be playing at the SEA Games and I'm disappointed, but I understand the decision, I get it," he told The New Paper.
"I've not been able to train with the team very much. I'm a bit out of touch with the tactics and that might actually harm the team, and that's the last thing we want," said Vanderput, who will continue to train with the team should his schedule permit it.
Even without their star man, Jaspal insists that team spirit remains high, as they go into the final phase of preparations.
"We're all willing to fight for each other and that's one of the best things about us - positive team spirit," said the 21-year-old, who will read accountancy at the Singapore Management University later this year.
"The toughest part of preparations was when we couldn't have the whole team training together.
"Things could've been better, but we take it as a challenge," said Jaspal, who is delighted to be able to join his brother - for the first time - in the national team.
They both have played for the national team, but due to various commitments, never at the same time.
Brotherly love could come in handy for first-year medical student Ishwarpal, 22, who has had to juggle sports and academics.
"Honestly, some of my performances have taken a hit as I prepare for my exams that start six days after the SEA Games," he said.
"School has definitely been tough and, personally, the biggest challenge for me has been speed.
"I've never been a fast player and have had to use brains to make up for it, but that has been tough too.
"But I want to show that as a team we can do this and I also want to prove my critics wrong," said Ishwarpal, who sees the positives in having someone to talk to about the team and the game, at home.
Admitting to playfully teasing each other about on-field mistakes when at home, Jaspal revealed that the family is proud to have two representatives at the Games.
"My dad always wanted one of us to make the national team and now to have both of us in, is quite special. He's very proud.
"This is my first major Games for the national team and to play in front of a home crowd will be great," said Jaspal, who remains upbeat despite the team losing to biggest rivals Malaysia in a five-game friendly series earlier this month.
Singapore lost 2-1, 7-0, 5-0, 4-2 and 6-1, in games played at the Sengkang Stadium.
"It's given us confidence even though the results weren't exactly encouraging. We're not approaching the Games with a defeatist mentality, no," said Jaspal.
"I believe it'll all come down to the day itself - we will stand a chance against Malaysia if we bring our 'A' game."