Foreigners have frequently been linked with Indian sports. Be it Wim Koevermans with football, Michael Nobbs in hockey or even our cricket coach Duncan Fletcher. But when one of world hockey's star players Jamie Dwyer was unveiled as Hockey India League's brand ambassador on Tuesday, it was for the first time that a foreigner became the face of an Indian sporting extravaganza. Excerpts from an interview with the five-time FIH World Player of the Year, 2004 Athens Olympics gold medallist and 2010 World Cup winner in New Delhi.
Joshua Nath: You have been a world beater Jamie, what brings to a country that finished 12th and last in the 2012 London Games?
Jamie Dwyer: I have always enjoyed playing in India and I have always vouched for hockey as an attractive proposition for youngsters, which I feel a professional league like HIL (Hockey India League) will be for world hockey. I came here in 2010 and won the World Cup. I have sweet memories from that trip of India.
JN: How will HIL benefit world hockey?
JD: Not just for the Indians, HIL will attract players from other countries, like me. It's lucrative and will be step in the right direction for our sport. The widely-broadcast league will enhance the game's image and I am grateful for this opportunity to work towards that goal.
JN: Your expectations from this franchisee-based event?
JD: I feel the game itself is going to be very entertaining and of high quality. I expect the sport to grow huge in this country and also around the world like I said.
JN: You have been a proven and successful player in the best hockey leagues around the world. If a Dutch league or German league pays equally well, will you still play in India?
JD: I would choose India, without a doubt. Not just that it is closer to Australia, but here you are likely to get a much bigger crowd to come and watch the games as compared to any other league in the world. I think hockey is the No.2 sport in India and it is going to grow.
JN: What makes you think, the present generation of Indians would follow hockey, despite the team's poor performance of late?
JD: Traditionally, the Indian hockey team has been an amazing side. They won six Olympics gold medals in a row between the 1920s and the 50s. I grew up watching the Indian team play, and their skills are just too good. The way they play the sport is really entertaining. If they can repeat some of that magic again, the following and support for the game will grow leaps and bounds.
JN: You have seen the India hockey team play in the 2012 London Games. How do you assess Indian hockey team's current state and what do they lack?
JD: I still think their skills are unbelievable. Their hand-eye coordination is brilliant. They just need to improve in a few areas which will make them more consistent. At the moment they lack consistency and that is something the Australian team always strives for. We Aussies attack, are aggressive, we are consistently doing that over the years. The Indian team fluctuates between the good and the bad. They just need to get the right medium so that they can win big games.
JN: In sports like football, and now more recently in cricket, the country versus club debate has risen. Do you think that at any stage hockey players will have to face such a dilemma with the outset of leagues like the HIL?
JD: The best thing about Hockey India League is that FIH has carved out a six-week window for the tournament so that players from all countries can easily be picked for the event. So I don't think that should ever be an issue as there will be no ongoing international tournaments at that stage.
JN: And lastly Jamie, the T20 World Cup of cricket has started. Who are your favourites for the title?
JD: Well I hope Australia win but that is looking difficult. I think India will be tough to beat, I like the way they play. I hope the way IPL has helped Indian cricket win the 50-over World Cup, the HIL can do the same for Indian hockey.