Isn’t there an uncanny parallel between the way Indian Hockey and West Indies cricket have conducted themselves over the years? One can evidence each any every move made by the Indian Hockey to have already been made by West Indies cricket. What did they achieve in doing that is the inference the Indian Hockey should have made a long time ago.
The National game is clearly in a state of shambles. While the recently concluded World cup has ignited some level of lost interest, it is only for the sport and not for the Indian players. It was an absolutely terrible performance by the entire staff of Indian Hockey. Clearly they looked out of sorts and were found wanting. It's a deep rooted problem that the sport is facing in India. It’s not that we are starving for skill and talent. It is the shortage of refinement techniques and inability to mould the talent into skill. And where can we find the refinement and the moulding tools. It’s at the grass root levels; in schools and colleges. And why hasn’t the association facilitated these schools and other coaching centres with these requisites. There are numerous questions to be posed.
West Indies ruled the cricketing world through the 70’s and the 80’s. They did fine till the start of the 90’s. By the early 90’s, most of their stalwarts either had or were on the verge of retirement. They lacked the resources and facilities to generate talent and create a pool of players who could act as natural replacements. Domestically they suffered several inefficiencies of infighting, sponsorship and captaincy issues. The ex-players too, never bothered to give back to the game. They therefore lost their place and have since been recognized as an ordinary side. Haven’t we witnessed similar events in Indian Hockey? Having reached the pinnacle of Hockey world with Olympic and World cup Gold’s under their belt, it's a shame to not qualify for Olympics. Dissolving the Hockey federation is the second shot in the arm. The sole reason for such a pathetic state is its governance.
While cricket in India grew tall and strong, it’s poor cousin shrank to get unnoticed. And I am not just pointing out its weak governance, but also the way the game has been marketed and taken to the public. Hockey, in India needs a Jagmohan Dalmiya to take it to the next level. In this day and age, sport is viewed as a commercial pot boiler. It needs to run in a manner that benefits the sport and the sportsman equally, and that’s where cricket has gone far ahead than other games especially in India. Not to say, cricket is error free, but those are more to do with external elements. The first step is to stop bragging about our great past in the Hockey world, because that will only lead to comparisons. Presuming that Hockey was never played before, let’s begin from the scratch. The pundits and the think tank would have to join hands, let go their ego and create an elected body that could nurture the game. First step is to invest in good quality Astroturf grounds, not just in big cities, but also in tier II and tier III cities and towns. Though Hockey was first to introduce the league system in India, it never really caught the imagination of the people as IPL has. This is where the promotion and marketing comes handy. It is certainly not logical to appoint a consultant to reform the sport, but if it could be helpful, let’s do that. It is imperative to rejuvenate the dead cells within the Indian Hockey. Various countries today, provide effective soft skills for players and coaches to adapt the new world orders. These are some of the investments the enthusiasts would have to make.
Our glorious past should only tutor us and not overwhelm us with high expectations. Let’s take it one step at a time.