India Insight

Catching them young to revive India’s glorious hockey past

It’s just after sunrise on a foggy winter morning in north India. Most people are snuggled up in quilts, but a group of teenagers with hockey sticks is out on the field. The ragtag bunch chasing a ball in Khera Garhi village, about 20 kilometres from central Delhi, shares a dream — to play in India’s field hockey team.

It’s an unusual dream in a country obsessed with cricket, but one that former national player Rajesh Chauhan hopes to foster among youngsters across India. Chauhan, 37, played for India during the second half of the 1990′s and set up the Jai Bharat Hockey Academy in 2011 to try to restore Indian hockey to its former glory.

India was a men’s hockey superpower in the last century, winning eight Olympic gold medals. Since 1980, the national team’s fortunes have declined.

Chauhan told India Insight that he hopes to discover the next generation of medal winners among his wards at the academy. He breaks off frequently to shout instructions to his students practising on the turf, which is nothing but muddy ground next to a road where trucks trundle past a telecommunications tower.

About 70 students, half of whom stay in a nearby hostel, have come from Delhi and its neighbouring states to hone their hockey skills. Some wake up before sunrise to travel to the academy, putting in several hours of practice before and after school.

Tendulkar exits, Anand slips during emotional 2013

Sachin Tendulkar bid a teary-eyed farewell to cricket while contemporary Viswanathan Anand lost his world chess crown in an emotional year for Indians in sports.

Forty-year-old Tendulkar, statistically the greatest batsman ever, walked into the sunset in November after his 200th test at his home Wankhede Stadium brought the cricket-crazy nation to a standstill.

“My life’s been 22 yards for 24 years. It’s hard to believe that wonderful journey is coming to an end,” an emotional Tendulkar said during a moving farewell speech as most Indians on and off the ground battled to hold back tears.

Piecing together the ‘Great Tamasha’ of Indian cricket

The Great Tamasha” is a book about cricket, but it is also a tale about the rapid rise of modern India and the corruption that plagues it. A series of scandals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the glitzy Twenty20 tournament run by the country’s cricket board, got James Astill hooked to the game in India. What followed was the 40-year-old journalist’s first book – an account of India’s rich cricketing tradition, politics, religion and the emergence of the cash-rich IPL.

Astill takes the reader from the slums of Mumbai to a village in north India, places where cricket is as much tamasha (spectacle) as it is religion. Bollywood stars, business tycoons and cricketers, both past and present, feature in “The Great Tamasha”. So does Lalit Modi, a former IPL chairman, now an outcast in India’s cricketing circles.

Astill spoke to India Insight about his book, cricket and its celebrity culture. Here are edited excerpts.

Voluntary reform is the only way out for Olympic pariah India

The outrage has simmered down, cricket has cast its usual mammoth shadow and there are burning, more important, social issues to deal with.

No wonder, there is simply no trace of the gloom that had descended on India after the world’s second most populous nation was kicked out of Olympic family earlier this month.

And no sign of a way out either.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended primarily because of government interference in its controversial Dec. 5 election and the sports ministry’s zeal to make its presence felt in every National Sports Federation (NSF) actually weakens India’s bid to get the Olympic ban lifted.

Beyond the F1 buzz, India need more drivers

By Abhishek Takle

I knew India would fall in love with Formula One when I witnessed Lewis Hamilton do a demo drive in Bangalore last month in front of 40,000 massively excited fans thrilled by the assault on their senses . Our first grand prix at Noida last weekend only proved me right. The world’s finest drivers were given a taste of the adulation usually only handed out to Indian cricketers on home soil.

Even if the 95,000 race day attendance fell short of a sell-out at the $450 million Buddh International Circuit, it was still pretty impressive and  all the indications point to the sport growing and attracting ever larger crowds in the years ahead as the word spreads. My stand at Turn 3 was certainly packed with fans, the majority of whom were Indians and decked out in Ferrari red.

Unsurprisingly for a cricket-crazy nation taking its first, baby steps into the world of global motorsport, most of the fans did not appear to be close followers of motor racing.

IPL Kochi on its way out?

A policeman stands guard at one of the entrances to a cricket stadium during a match in the IPL tournament in Kolkata April 19, 2010. REUTERS/Parth Sanyal/Files
It’s intriguing arithmetic. After adding two new franchises to its stable, the Indian Premier League now runs the serious risk of going into its fourth edition with seven cricket teams, one less than the original eight.

In that March 21 news conference in Chennai, Lalit Modi, still one month away from a dramatic dumping, was doing what he does best — reeling off mindboggling numbers.

Modi welcomed Pune and Kochi on board and waxed eloquent on how recession-proof the cash-awash league was.

Commonwealth Games 2010 – LIVE Blog

Commonwealth Games closing ceremony

News, views and updates from the Oct 3 – 14 Games in New Delhi. Share your views.

Full coverage of the 2010 Commonwealth Games here

Commonwealth Games besieged – now diseased?

Plagued by endless corruption accusations, vast overspending claims and huge construction delays, you would be forgiven for thinking none of Delhi’s inhabitants were overjoyed about the city’s upcoming Commonwealth Games.

But you’d be mistaken, at least according to India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

On Sunday, he said that the construction sites for the Games, which kick off in just over 40 days, were providing perfect conditions for the city’s mosquitoes, and laying the blame for the city’s record-breaking dengue outbreak squarely with the organising committee.

Game over for sports VIPs in India?

The rules of the game in India’s multi-million dollar sports industry are set to change with the sports ministry’s decision to bring back a key 1975 regulation.

A commuter walks past the New Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi October 3, 2009.

The regulation, capping the tenure of sports bosses, has pitted the ministry against National Sporting Federation (NSF) chiefs, who have threatened that the ministry’s actions might invite a ban on Indian sports.

The central government’s move is seen as part of a ‘clean-up drive’ of the country’s sporting bodies that have long been riddled with controversies, and allegations of mismanagement.

Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar?

CRICKET-SAFRICA/The Maharashtra government is going to recommend Sachin Tendulkar for the country’s highest recognition — Bharat Ratna.

Not only politicians of various hues but former cricketers have also rooted for Tendulkar.

Calls for the award have become louder after Tendulkar achieved the rare feat of a double century in the one-day format.

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