India Insight

Can Indian hockey be given its due credit?

January 10, 2010

The year was 2007. Cheerleaders danced to the beats of a Bollywood song as India was about to script a nail-biting finish against Pakistan in the cricket Twenty20 World Cup final.

With tricolour flags in hand, almost every Indian spectator was gripped with the spirit of patriotism. The impact on TV viewers couldn’t have been less.

And all this while, little did cricket fans realise that intensity was coming from a song ‘Chak De India‘ filmed on a sport so different in its administration, handling and following.

Chak De! India“, the film featuring the song, was an effort to remind the nation of its national sport — hockey.

Of a sport that brought the nation eight Olympic gold medals.

Of a sport that saw the emergence of a spectacular sportsman.

India's Prabodh Tirkey reacts after losing their men's final World Hockey Beijing Olympics Qualifier match against Britain in Santiago March 9, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz CaballeroOf a sport that went on to witness one of its most unfortunate days when India failed to make the cut at the Olympics for the first time in 80 years.

Of a sport that shook the collective conscience of an entire country as one controversy after another surrounded its administrators.

Of a sport whose achievers are languishing in poverty.

The fresh crisis in the national sport is not new at all. The Indian hockey team was caught in a similar pay controversy ahead of a tournament in the 1990s. The players got the rough end of the stick.

In later years, the sport continued to go through a series of misfortunes as the hockey administration tumbled towards a total collapse. The new administration Hockey India (HI) is yet to hold its own let alone administering the game cleanly.

The latest controversy has once again exposed the flagrant disregard for sportsmen who have chosen to ignore lucrative careers offered elsewhere.

All this at a time when India is just a month away from hosting the 2010 Hockey World Cup. And when all eyes are set on the 2010 Commonwealth Games which already has been grappling with a host of issues.

The hockey situation looked so grim that Bollywood actor and “Chak De! India” star Shah Rukh Khan tweeted his unhappiness over the gross mishandling of hockey players’ dues.

The irony is the impassioned song of Khan’s film that was meant to bring back the glory and lift the dampened spirits of the national sport finds no mention beyond Eden Gardens or Chepauk.

Is the foundation of our national sport this fragile that it needs Bollywood to inspire its management and functioning?

Has the weapon in India’s arsenal that won accolades across the globe been reduced to just a stick in the mud today?

Will India ever revive the sport that won the country its first Olympic gold?

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

As with everything in Indian sport, there is either a babu or politician at the head, all out for what they can get out of it. That is why Indian sport is doomed. Hockey is perhaps the most glaring example. For decades it has been the private preserve of the police. Now the politicans are fighting over the left overs in HI. The players are forgotten. If the grapevine is to be believed, the real emphasis in HI right now is on the election. Kalmadi is reportedly trying to stage manage affairs so that he has no contenders. How many functions and hats is this one man going to handle? Can he even remember all his portfolios? How does he decide which hat to wear on which day? Can he possibly do justice to any post.

People talk of cricket having an independent body? How many politicos figure there? Isn’t this cat fight in the Delhi Association also amongst Jaitley and Kirti Azad really?

Sport is a milk cow. How many officials go along with even the smallest teams abroad? In table tennis, if I remember right, a coach was refused to make way for an official who was pushed into the delegation as the coach. When will we raise our voices? If one were to write a book on indian sport it should aptly be titled “The Tragedy Of Indian Sport”.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

Indian hockey seems to be facing a malady that is common to other sports — basically a disconnect between sports administrators, sportsmen and spectators. The three don’t seem to be on the same page.

Even cricket, with the richest sports body in the country, gets an egg in the face with the recent fiasco at New Delhi.

Hockey needs to be resuscitated but not because it won us medals in the past, it should be revived for its own sake.

After all it is a great spectator sport and much faster and quicker than even Twenty20 cricket.

For those who have played and watched it the adrenalin rush is unmatched.

I have preserved my hockey stick from school, though i don’t think i will ever get to use it again.

Posted by vipul-t | Report as abusive
 

My grandfather had played with Hockey Wizard Major Dhyan Chand as a member of the Heroes Club, Jhansi. It boasted of several other Hockey players of eminence including Dhyan Chand’s brother Roop Singh. Of the several anecdotes that he used to regale me with about the heydays of Indian Hockey when no team in the world came even close to matching India’s Hockey prowess, two remain entrenched in my mind –

1. Seeing Dhyan Chand’s dominance over the game was all pervasive at the Berlin Olympics. On being told that he is an ordinary Subedar in the Indian Army, German dictator Hitler told him that had you been in the German army, I would have made you a Field Marshal.

2. When Indian team scored some 500 goals in about 40-odd matches on their tour to Australia, the legendary batsman Sir Don Bradman famously commented, “It appears as if Indian hockey players score goals like cricket runs.”

Will we ever be able to resurrect the glorious past? Seems unlikely given the current state of affairs where Indian players are not even being given their salaries and required infrastructure and training while Korean players undergo Commando course drills. But if Hockey India is able to get a turnaround, I promise that the thrill will be as big as the one generated by the T-20 cricket. Remember that Indian team once defeated the United States team by a score of 24-1.

Posted by Anuambrish | Report as abusive
 

You can check the popularity of your national game from this simple example:
If it would have been the blog for some cricketer having even a small injury, it would have been flooded by comments. But the indian hockey is suffering from such a big crisis and there are only 3 comments(including mine) until now…..
Where is the actual problem? Can anybody guess?

Posted by Maggie_123 | Report as abusive
 

Aprops to the article above.
What was untill yesterday like a mexican standoff between the militant national hockey team in a show of strengh VS
harrased federation ; it is today a media savy “kiss and make up”.So much has been happening in the hockey arena
lately that hockey can surely be referred again as a national game(or should i say national prime-time news game).
Kudos to people like Mr.H M Bangur(Managing Director,Shree Cements)who pledged 1 crore aid for the players and for vetrans like Dhanraj pillay who helped defuse the situation between the Hockey India adimistration & players.
Cutting the long argument short, i think it’s high time that Govt divests it’s controlling stake in games and grant them autonomy.We need a accountable CEO type approach for our games to florish for the good.
LONG LIVE INDIAN HOCKEY.

Posted by Hardeepak | Report as abusive
 

Tiger is the national animal of India, but their numbers are decreasing and is highly endangered.

Indian hockey is national game of India, and is also endangered.

There is something seriously wrong. Is their any accountability here?

As a elementary school kid, I always carried hockey stick to along with my school bag. I picked up cricket much later—perhaps I am schooled in village where hockey made exit a bit later. Before I got a real hockey stick, we used to play khido khundi with Desi version of stick and ball. Stick was made out of a Sheesham tree branch (I think) and bark removed to keep it smooth. Ball was also desi handmade version. Hockey players have emerged from the tradition of khido khundi and were artists in controlling the unpredictable bounce of the ball on natural grass.

Times changed Cricket attracted kids—I think it could be the laziness of cricket that did it versus the athletic demanding hockey. No wonder Indian cricket suffers from poor fielding, which again is a demanding thing to do and means building stamina and agility. Also, a synthetic play field of hockey meant predictable bounce and the need to work extra on stamina and speed. I am a street cricket player but coming from Punjab I got chance to play hockey on full AstroTurf in early 90s—for fun. It is tiring and calf muscles sing next day. But stopping a speeding ball is no big deal as long as the stick is near the ball.

I agree with Vipul-T that “After all it is a great spectator sport and much faster and quicker than even Twenty20 cricket.”

Business houses who have made money from the booming economy of India owe it to their nation to revive hockey (like great gesture from Sahara) that they contribute $$$$$$ for hockey and players/coaches. They can make sure that money is not a limiting factor in the revival of hockey. The kind of money one is asking is not huge.

Public becomes more balanced about sports and build interest in non-cricket sports. With new opportunities in IPL, it is hard to turn youngsters towards hockey.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

Once its was fast and furious sport of india, now it has become poor man sport. Hope goverment or Multi national or Mr Big’s do something about this sport and invest on youth to bring back its glory.

I know its a sad day for India Hockey and its has become National shame

Posted by Marvik | Report as abusive
 

though the crisis is now solved,the article points to an existing malaise in sports in India. But i also feel that hockey or for that matter any other sport does not bring in as much revenue as that generated by cricket, hence the comparison is not valid.
Hope the hockey players can go and get a good name for themselves in the impending world cup

Posted by Gautam12 | Report as abusive
 

It’s pity that hockey is in such a bad state of affairs. I have give a different prescription for the revival of Indian hockey at the blog http://chapter18.wordpress.com/2010/01/2 6/batting-for-hockey/

Do check it out.

Nara

Posted by nara | Report as abusive
 

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