Hockey, the National sport of India. Contrary to the grave reality, there was a time when immense pride associated with the sport in our country. It was a sport of the young and free India. Decades before Indian cricket came of age, Indian Hockey was the sole flag bearer of our country when it came to professional sports. Indian Hockey teams, belonging to both the undivided and divided era, brought unprecedented glory to the country. The consecutive Olympic golds, the consistent World Cup wins, the intricate skill and the twinkle toes – An Indian forward line attack was next only to the Brazilian ‘Football Samba’.
Then came the professional era, the power game, the physical match ups and most critical of all the factors – the Astroturf. This started the beginning of the end. Indian Hockey stuttered, struggled and boom! Imploded. The slumps that followed were as shocking to the world as they were to the countrymen. By the late 1980s, and to this day, Indian hockey is a mere remnant of the force gone by now, figuring in the bottom half of the table throughout global championships. The analogy can be drawn to West Indian cricket. A few Asian triumphs and a few players (Gagan Ajit Singh and Dhanraj pillai come to mind) have salvaged pride but barely.
However, the events a fortnight ago took even that away when India failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics for the first time in 80 years! Three days of hullabaloo and we are back to square one. Mr. K.P.S. Gill is still stuck to the chair; Mr. Ric Charlesworth is finally instated as the technical advisor (after months of begging or what it seemed) and the media focus is back to the forthcoming IPL. Indian Hockey, yet again, has been left to fate and destiny. Honestly, I do not have any more technical options to explore; the collapsing system will ensure they are not implemented anyway. The only men who can resurrect hockey now are Prabodh Tirkey, Bharat Chetri, Divakar Ram, William Xalxo, Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh, and Gurbaj Singh. Are you wondering who they are? Well! News Flash: they are the members of the Indian men’s hockey team. Perhaps, if we would have even cared to know about them, leave alone cheering for them, Indian Hockey would have been featuring in the Beijing Olympics.
One cliché works just fine here for us – Let us wake up before it is too late. Come to think of it, is it already too late?
[Image Source : http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/fullimage/ver1/h/hockey3.jpg]