I cannot recall off-hand Indian hockey being in a bigger mess as now. For that matter, the country's premier and money-spinning sport, cricket, is in no better shape and in recent days, the two have been hogging the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
To yet again stress on the point I had harped on in some of my previous columns, BCCI's player management has been grossly amateurish and insensitive. Is it any surprise then that eight of our World Cup stars are nursing injuries at a time when the Indian team needs them to avoid more humiliation in England?
To top it, there is this musical chair event happening on the sidelines with regard to our national selectors with selective whispers being floated out as if to test the waters. Evidently, Srikkanth will retain his chairman's slot as also his co-selectors for a while yet and that is no surprise. But then, you cannot gloss over the disastrous tour of England where the Indian team is stumbling from one error to the next.
Add to this melting pot the rejected draft sports bill and that again was no surprise given the fact that the central cabinet has so many interested persons with high stakes in the game. The bottom line is that the BCCI will fight tooth and nail to keep its mask of secrecy and independence so long as the likes of Pawar, Jaitley and Shukla have the ear of the government, courtesy the political equations at the Centre.
If anything, the behemoth that the BCCI is, it will take a hundred Hazares to clean up its stables that I am sure have enough skeletons to last a few generations. It is good that the government is digging into the IPL funding and financial arrangements and the word is that the top officials of the BCCI have finally admitted to the Parliamentary committee that they were aware of Lalit Modi's dealings! It only confirms that Modi was a victim of a huge power-struggle to secure control over the BCCI that is growing richer by the minute.
If cricket finds itself getting pushed into a corner, Indian hockey is taking a standing count after receiving some painful blows, most of them self-inflicted. The entire hockey issue is rather complicated and steeped in politics stemming from king-size egos of individuals who do not have the interests of the game at heart.
On its part, the International Hockey Federation has played its own questionable role in stirring a hornet's nest by first granting affiliation to Hockey India without checking its antecedents or legality of its existence, then backing it to host the World Cup last year just because of financial gains. And now, with some 500,000 dollars in dues, the FIH has, in a vindictive act, decided to revoke the Champions Trophy allotment to India.
At least in cricket, there is some semblance of governance, while in hockey, the administrators continue to live in the past, squabbling for power as though there is a billion dollars in the account.
I blame all the three hockey bodies - the FIH, the Indian Hockey Federation and the HI - for the current impasse and the Indian government has only added more fuel to the fire by its failure to crack the whip as it had done a few times in the past.
Back in 1980 and 1982, the government-appointed All-India Council of Sports (now defunct), headed by the late Gen Sam Manekshaw took control to field teams at the Moscow Olympics where India won the gold and the 1982 Asian Games. On both occasions, the Indian Hockey Federation was in suspended animation.
The government should have stepped in by suspending both the IHF and HI while instituting an ad hoc body to govern the sport like it had done three decades ago until the matter is sorted out.
The FIH too has been guilty of playing politics and its president Negre appears clueless in dealing with an issue that it had helped create. In the bargain, Indian hockey has slid from bad to worse, and if this was not enough, you have indiscipline raising its head in the ranks of the players.
The walk-out of Sardara Singh and Sandeep Singh leading to their suspension, is a case in point. But what about the men who are dealing with indiscipline?
You have Grewal, the assistant coach or whatever designation he holds, who has a history of leaving national camps no fewer than thrice during his playing days; then there is Pargat Singh heading the "disciplinary committee" of Hockey India.
Pargat escaped punishment in 1985 for assault on the umpire during the stormy Asia Cup final against Pakistan. Much later, he was a principal figure in several other incidents, notably the 1992 Olympics and the 1996 Olympic qualifier. Post-retirement, he opposed Batra, the HI chief, and subsequently, joined the gang for which he was rewarded with his current position!
The point is that the cricket and hockey administrators are playing ducks and drakes with the sport they are supposed to develop and promote. There is no accountability of their actions and the tragedy is that they will yet survive while the sport continues to suffer.