FROM THE STANDS: Indian hockey needs a big clean-up

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By Qaiser Mohammad Ali


First, the vastly popular Indian Premier League cast its huge shadow on a preparatory camp of the Indian national hockey team.


And then the build-up to the football World Cup, which is set to start on Thursday, further pushed the ongoing hockey World Cup into the background.


The point here is not the significance of the hockey World Cup or the negligible media coverage it received this time around. It’s the abysmal performance of the Indian team that once again brought disappointment to the receding hockey fan-base in the country.


Indian hockey: The team continues to disappoint the country’s hopeful fans, as the number of people taking an interest in the game dwindles every year


The Indian men’s team, which is currently ranked a lowly ninth in the world, began as usual on the wrong foot, with a defeat, and then failed to make it to the semi-finals.



Now, the team is even struggling to play for pride.


Why has hockey, which fetched India eight Olympic gold medals when selfishness among administrators and players is believed to have been much less, slipped into a quagmire?


The reasons are many, and it doesn’t require rocket science to uncover them. Honesty and selflessness are the most important aspect for any project or blueprint to succeed.



Things like focus, hard work and determination follow automatically when you are honest and unselfish. If these two ingredients are there, scientific planning, use of technology, and infrastructure etc. would also be beneficial.


We have lived far too long in the past. It has suited successive administrative set-ups to easily make a fool of fans for many years by invoking the era that fetched eight Olympic gold medals whenever the team didn’t perform up to expectations.


They don’t mention the fact that India hasn’t won a World Cup in 39 years and an Olympic gold in the 34 years.


Poor performance: Despite the efforts of India’s hockey team coach Terry Walsh, the national side is only ranked 9th in the world


So, let’s live in the present. Sentiments will take Indian hockey only backwards, as it has done all these years. But it suits the administrators perfectly if fans continue to live in current failures.


Distributing one-time benefit purses to the great players, strategically just before a World Cup, would not improve the performance of the present team.



Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean that that the greats don’t deserve the honour. Or a few minutes of pep talk by a Sachin Tendulkar wouldn’t alter the fortunes of a team.


Honesty in every sphere of the game – administration, selection, policy implementation, appointment of coaches etc. – is the dire need of today, perhaps more than ever in the annals of Indian hockey.


Let’s run a reality check on all these issues – and above all accountability. But it won’t happen because many people who run the game fear it might expose them, and therefore successive dispensations have got away with murder, so to say.


Unfortunately, the media scrutiny of hockey administrators has proportionally lessened over the years, and this suits them perfectly.


Few seem to be worried or bothered about the performance of the team. Same would happen this time. When the defeated team returns in a few days from the Netherlands, sports fans would already be drowned in World Cup football fever.


Few – including the Sports Authority of India, which provides all the infrastructure and fat salaries of coaches employed by Hockey India – would make an effort to ask tough questions of the people in responsible positions, the coaches, and the players.


“Today, hardly anything is done in a proper manner. For example, the selection of selectors is not fair while players are virtually elected these days, not selected,” a top coach told Mail Today.


“Although the Hockey India website claims it has drawn out a Long-Term Development Programme, we’ve not been given any.”


Both good work and rot start at the top. What we need are clean administrators who quit if teams fail, honest selection of players, accountability and, above all, transparency in all spheres.


Selflessness, did someone say that?


Sehwag is game for the pink ball


Even as the manufacturers of a revolutionary pink ball for night Test cricket still await the International Cricket Council (ICC) nod, Virender Sehwag has already given his thumbs up for it.


Then, to prove his point, he scored a century – and that too against the pink one.


“If the pink ball is as good as the red one, I don’t mind playing with pink balls under lights, because more crowds will come to watch as half of the match [day’s play] would be played after office hours,” Sehwag told Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) website.


Sehwag, who was surprisingly chosen to lead the MCC XI against English county champions Durham, hammered 109 to help his team win the English county season – opening match by six wickets in Abu Dhabi.


The four-day match was a day-night encounter during which the pink ball underwent a trial at an unlikely venue, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, in March.


A total of two centuries and five other half-centuries were scored during the game. There is a view that to reinvigorate Test cricket, the five-day matches should be played at night to attract more people to the game.



The ICC hasn’t approved the idea or the pink ball, though the MCC is one of the strongest advocates of the two changes.


Some domestic first-class matches have also been played with the pink ball in Australia as part of the ongoing trials.


Brett Elliot, Group Managing Director of Kookaburra Sport, which manufactures the pink ball, points out that the only difference between the red ball and the pink one is that the leather is dyed in pink colour.


He says the pink ball has a slightly tougher finish to ensure that the colour is preserved a little longer, and claims that the ball is “proving to be very visible under lights”.

Cagey BCCI hides information from public

Transparency and accountability seems to be taking a hit with the BCCI. Starting from its website, sharing of information with the public is clearly disappearing.



Till a few months ago, the abridged versions of BCCI’s annual reports and the treasurer’s reports of the last few years were visible on its website.


Now, those have disappeared from the portal, and this has coincided with the expiring of the TCS contract.


The BCCI’s IT section currently manages the website, even though it has awarded a Rs 17 crore three-year contract to two companies to run and manage the website.


But it seems that the new website is still not ready and until then Board is managing it in-house. To get more information, we will have to wait till the time the website is relaunched.


While the World Cup football fever has gripped the country, spare a thought for the standard of the game in India.


This country is abysmally low on the global scene, and considering the rate of development, it will take many years for it to be a force to reckon with.


Currently, India, a country of 1.2 billion people, is ranked an abysmal 154th by FIFA, having slipped seven places since May.


India was a footballing force many years ago. In 1950, the country qualified for the World Cup held in Brazil. But, for some strange and inexplicable reasons, the All India Football Federation decided against sending the team to compete, thus denying the players a chance to test themselves against the powerhouses of the world.


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