hockey is drifting rudderless (Comment)
Things were never so bad, even during the dark days of the
power struggle in Indian hockey in the 1970s when the country's
participation in the 1975 Kuala Lumpur world cup itself was
in danger. There was no set-up as the Sports Authority of
India then; so on a request by Raja Bhalindra Singh, the then
president of the Indian Hockey Federation, Giani Zail Singh,
the then Punjab chief minister, took the responsibility of
preparing the World Cup team in Chandigarh. The rest, as they
say, is history.
It turned out that Ajit Pal Singh's team, coached by Balbir
Singh Sr., who was ably assisted by the late Gurcharan Singh
Bodhi, went on to win the tournament, the only time India
has won the world cup. Success, as we all know, has many fathers.
One remembers M.A.M. Ramaswamy, disputed president of the
Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), joining the players in the
lap of honour at KL and Umrao Singh, the Punjab sports minister,
carrying the trophy on his head when the team landed at the
However bitter the split then, the business of hockey went
on somehow. But now, under the ad hoc body, set up by the
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to run the game after the
supersession of the IHF, hockey affairs suffer from the lack
of a sense of direction. The popular demand heard was that
the players should control the administration of the game.
From what one has seen of late, it is plain that the players
are now unable to agree among themselves.
One of them, Aslam Sher Khan, who has had a taste of active
politics, began exceeding his brief. He was nominated as a
selector, but he was heard speaking on administrative matters
and acted as a spokesman of the ad hoc committee. Obviously,
it was unacceptable to his colleagues and the people who appointed
The selection committee plumped for M.K. Kaushik as the team's
coach without studying the clauses of the contract he had
signed with the women's hockey body, which angrily went public
with its objections. Now Kaushik, who already has had one
stint, a successful one, as the men's team coach till he was
unceremoniously removed from the job, has no choice but to
fulfil his contract as the women's team coach.
A couple of selectors need to be reminded of their opposition
to the unhealthy practice of frequent change of coaches. They
seem to have different views now. How come they did not opt
for continuity and think of asking Joaquim Carvalho to continue
One can't help commenting that the long list of probables
has several grave omissions and commissions. The selectors
have concluded that the services of players like Dilip Tirkey
are dispensable. But some unheard of names have been pushed
into the list. They had not been heard of before. They are
there, it appears, because the selector who recommended their
names happens to be their coach at Bhopal hockey academy.
All of which leaves one wondering if appointing as selectors
people who are employed as academy coaches is the right thing
to do. It is important that selectors should not only be fair
but also be seen to be fair.
Hockey fans are not sure if the ad hoc dispensation has studied
the report of the four coaches who were sent to Beijing to
observe the Olympic tournament and taken a view on it. There
can be no two opinions that the quality of hockey played at
Beijing, in the men's as well as women's tournaments, was
of the highest order. Did our wise men there put their heads
together to prepare a plan for the future? Even in an ad hoc
set-up there is scope for a serious professional approach.
In the meanwhile, we have had a seminar at Amby Valley, Pune,
of all places, and a general body meeting of the IHF headed
by K.P.S. Gill, who has made no secret of his contempt for
the IOA and its ad hocism.
Obviously, these moves were intended as exercises in anticipation
of elections, whenever they are held. The more things change
the more they are the same.
(K. Datta is a veteran sports journalist. He can be reached
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