It is just unbelievable that Indian hockey continues to slide from one mess to next and the administrators remain as thick skinned and insensitive to reality as ever. In fact, nothing about this sport is a surprise, for history seems to repeat itself year on year. The only solace, if at all, is the odd win, like the one in China where our boys won the Asian Champions Trophy.
Coach Nobbs would be no doubt a relieved man after being a witness to the darker side of Indian hockey, including the walkout of two seniors, Sardara and Sandeep, besides the row over cash prize commensurate with achievement on the team's return from China.
Cash rewards flow in for miffed hockey players
In fact, Sardara and Sandeep merely followed the footsteps of some of their peers like Pargat Singh, the late Surjit Singh, Baldev Singh, the late Prithipal Singh and Gurbux Singh, all principal actors in dramas over Indian team captaincy in the past. Today, some of these worthies pontificate on discipline! In fact, India's Olympic debut in 1928 was also marred by captaincy issue and hence my surmise that nothing has changed in Indian hockey.
The problem with Indian hockey today is manifold and very complex. On the one hand, you have a set of bungling administrators nursing king-size egos and who cannot look beyond their crooked noses. On the other, there are players weighed down by regional bias and covert politics that occasionally surface, but usually lie hidden. It is a potluck scenario that leads to indigestion. For sure, there is no instant remedy, but the situation is not beyond control provided the parties involved show better sense and a commitment to the sport.
The to-do over cash awards in the wake of the Champions Trophy success is typical in Indian hockey. While I agree with Minister Maken that the government need not announce cash awards that the medalists are due by default, the State governments, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka, shamelessly leveraged the situation to score brownie points and political mileage. What prevented them announcing the awards soon after the tie-breaker win over Pakistan in the final? The answer is ignorance. I bet, these governments were not even aware of the tournament in China!
Unfortunately, Indian hockey has never been blessed with a good set of administrators who really cared for the sport and the players. Before my time, there was the benevolent Naval Tata who worked for the betterment of hockey as the president of the Indian Hockey Federation, but eventually was a victim of politics that saw the emergence of Ashwini Kumar whose dictatorial style of functioning stunted the growth of the game.
From then on, the administration slid from bad to worse and though the National team continued to score the odd success on the international stage, the rot had set in. Today, politics and short-sighted administrators have ensured that the image of Indian hockey remains tarnished and bloodied.
Do you think it is an insult to our hockey players?
I do not get fooled by the infrequent victories, such as the one in China, to believe that Indian hockey is thriving. For sure, the tournaments continue to be held across the country, youngsters, though decreasing in number, are still taking to the game, and there is talent enough to occasionally win a tournament or two, but overall, the sport is suffering from cancer that has eaten into its vitals.
Indian hockey today is in the basement, if not the pits, and faces a long haul over the next couple of generations before it can get among the top four, much less win the Olympic gold or the World Cup.
The two rival organizations, the IHF and Hockey India, are far too diverse in their outlook and composition to come together for a common cause. The IOA, who in the first place should be sent to the gallows for the crime of triggering the administrative mess, now preach as if it is the last word in innocence. Kalmadi's greed saw him salivate for the post of hockey president, leading to the dismantling of an elected and legal entity to form the rival Hockey India. It is perhaps, Kalamadi's biggest sin that deserves the severest condemnation.
Whatever, the fact is that Indian hockey is currently languishing in penury. There are neither funds nor quality administrators nor a viable system in tune with ground reality. So, rest assured that we will be witness to more unsavoury incidents that will only serve to further expose the ailing innards of Indian hockey. So much the pity, but then, who cares?