hockey order: India should have been there (Comment)
China celebrates its emergence as the world's leading sports
power, judging by the 51 gold medals it has won at the Beijing
Olympic Games, India also has reason for some cheer, with
three of its athletes winning medals, including the historic
gold medal of Abhinav Bindra which could be well be beginning
of a long awaited sporting renaissance in the country. All
in all, Asian countries have between them won 71 gold medals.
Even trouble-torn Afghanistan has a medal, a bronze, to its
as the hockey tournament progressed at Beijing, many an old
Indian with fond memories of the glorious teams which won
eight gold medals could be pardoned if he were to shout: "India,
where are you?" Many have still to reconcile with the
fact the Indian team, for the first time in 80 years, had
failed to qualify for the Olympic Games. Our women's team
was not there either, having flopped in the qualifier in the
freezing cold of Kazan. It is blasphemy to even to think of
an Olympic hockey tournament without Indian representation.
Hopefully, India will be there at London in 2012.
game of hockey has undergone a cycle of change since the days
of Dhyan Chand, the celebrated wizard of the game. India was
the dominating power of Olympic hockey since the 1928 Amsterdam
Games with a brand of hockey which was a magical art. With
Pakistan making an appearance in 1948 at London, the Indian
style came to be described as the Asian style.
at always being at the losing end, a German called Horst Wein
came out with a book called "The Science of Hockey".
He analysed the Indian, or rather the Indian-Pakistani style
and devised methods of breaking those short-passing moves
of our inside forwards and the sprints of our wingers on the
flanks before they spanked their centres into the striking
circle. Man-to-man marking was the new formula. European hockey
forged ahead as more tactical advances were made, not to mention
rule changes and the switch to artificial turf pitches. The
Australians devised their own style, an intelligent mixture
of the traditional Asian and European styles. And the dominance
of Indians and Pakistanis was effectively challenged.
came to a stage when India failed even to figure on the podium.
In Montreal 1976, it was placed seventh when Olympic hockey
was played on synthetic grass for the first time. Since then
the Indian hockey team has done no better than take sixth,
seventh or eighth place in the Olympics, barring the boycott-hit
Moscow games in 1980. It has finished even worse in a couple
of World Cups.
the Indian hockey administration kept sacking its national
team coaches, a couple of other Asian nations forged into
the picture. The Koreans, coached by a man who was taught
at National Institute of Sports, Patiala, the late Balkrishan
Singh, emerged as the new hockey power.
China also made significant advances. The improvement shown
by its women's team has come as an eye opener. Playing hockey
of the highest class, the Chinese girls edged powerful Germany
out in the semi-finals before going down to the Netherlands
in the final.
who have spurned the services of the Australian Ric Charlesworth
as coach, are due to host the World Cup in 2010 in New Delhi.
The ad hoc committee, managing the affairs of the Indian Hockey
Federation after the supercession of the K.P.S. Gill-led set-up,
is still has to come up with a proper road map for the future.
An ad hoc body is just that. Ad hocism won't do. Neither also
the old blame game. Coach M.K. Kaushik was in Beijing videofilming
the games played by the world's leading hockey teams. It would
be interesting to see if the man has any fresh insights to
three Asian teams fighting it out at Beijing, Asian hockey
has a say on the Olympic stage. It is equally true that the
wheel of change has turned in favour of European teams. So
intense is the competition to be among the international elite
that a few teams who were unable to make it to Beijing are
good enough to upset the Olympic order on their day. Among
them is India, who missed the flight to China because of one
bad day in the qualifier at Santiago in March.
won the gold medal in Beijing, beating Spain by a solitary
goal. Australia took the bronze beating the Netherlands. Great
Britain, Korea and New Zealand finished fifth, sixth and seventh
above Pakistan while Belgium, Canada, China and South Africa
occupied the last four places in that order behind Pakistan.
Come to think of it, India would have beaten most teams in
the top six finishers, let alone others.
Datta is a veteran sports journalist. He can be contacted
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