A walkout, and a manufactured result

KIRTI PATIL

The anticlimax: The Haryana and the Railways teams were controversially adjudged joint winners of the Lady Ratan Tata Trophy.-SANDEEP SAXENA

RAILWAYS had much to offer, but Haryana turned far too mean. Adding arrogance to their skills, Haryana forced a farce on the 53rd National Women's Hockey Championship in New Delhi.

Historically, there is no instance to support what the technical bench offered on July 11, the day of the final. Buckling under pressure with the crowd getting unruly by the moment, those `wise people' on the chair scrapped the mandatory extra-time and declared Railways and Haryana joint winners of the Lady Ratan Tata Trophy. Spin of the coin sent Haryana in jubilation as it got to keep the silverware for the first six months. One could hardly say that poetic justice was done as Haryana had staged a 10-minute walkout during play, and the time lost was a factor that governed the decision taken by the technical bench.

No doubt, the daylight had faded as monsoon clouds hovered over Delhi the entire day. But the situation was certainly not unplayable, unlike what the protest given by the Haryana coach, Baldev Singh, suggested. "Courtney Walsh would have bowled five overs and certainly half-an-hour of cricket match could have been played in such conditions," was a sarcastic observation by one hockey enthusiast.

What smacks is the way the entire episode was handled. At the start, the umpires were too negligent and later they booked players for every violation — nine cards were pulled out, four against Railways and five against Haryana.

Unfortunately, international umpire Anupama forgot to discipline the unruly Haryana defenders when things went awry. Veteran Sandeep Kaur smashed her stick on the turf protesting against Anupama awarding the penalty stroke. Railways forward Jyoti Sunita Kullu had been pushed when she was in clear sight of the goal and about to strike the ball. The entire Haryana team crowded around Anupama to join Sandeep in chorus but the umpire kept explaining why she pointed to the spot, instead of booking Sandeep for dissent.

Far too often, indiscipline has been ignored in the Indian sport `in the best interest' of everybody. But unless those who are supposed to set examples act by the rulebook, such incidences will keep creeping up.

The Indian Women's Hockey Federation (IWHF) will have a lot of explaining to do. But, going by its past record, IWHF hardly cared to justify its actions. As in this case, the scrapping of extra-time would simply be blamed on the technical bench.

It is another story that the IWHF top brass was absent during the final. The IWHF President, Vidya Stokes, did attend the opening match a fortnight ago but it was told that the Secretary, Amrit Bose, was holidaying in the US. Only the President of Haryana Women's Hockey Association, Ms. Sampat Singh, who is also the IWHF Vice-President, witnessed the final proceedings.

Railways was a far superior side with 12 internationals featuring in the squad of 16. Haryana was a combination of raw and natural talent, groomed into a well-knit team. Having beaten Haryana in the league match, Railways knew Haryana was a beatable team. If one were to pick a few bright moments, it would definitely be the single-handed runs carried out by left-out Mamta Kharab and centre forward Jyoti Sunita Kullu.

The very sight of a player running through the defence holding the stick in one hand and guiding the ball throughout as if it was glued to the stick is something to behold. Mamta, the golden girl of India's Manchester Commonwealth Games triumph against England, did that more than once. Jyoti was also at the forefront, but all these raids translated into just penalty corners.

Haryana banked too much on their only international, the drag-flick expert Jasjeet Kaur, and the skipper Simarjeet, to lead the raids. Railways defence led by Kanti Baa, Pushpa Pradhan and Masira Surin foiled all such excursions. As the Railways seemed impregnable, frustration grew. All this translated into flared tempers and umpires were on toes, literally.

Haryana players contest umpire Anupama's decision to award a penalty stroke to Railways in the final.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Railways was once reduced to nine players in the first half, but still Haryana failed to break the defence. Later, the fortunes reversed when Harpreet Kaur and Sarvjeet Kaur were yellow carded, and Railways nudged ahead, not before the ruckus created by Haryana by walking out.

The technical bench pleaded with the Haryana coach and the match resumed after about 10 minutes of delay, and Masira scored without any hitch. Five minutes later Sandeep put Haryana even. As soon as the match ended 1-1 after the regulation time, Haryana coach Baldev Singh protested about the fading light and the formula of sharing the prize was arrived at.

Now, who should be held responsible for the 10 minutes that were lost when Haryana staged a walkout? No one is ready to comment on it. On the face of it, Railways looked shocked by the decision. Either way, win or lose, the team wanted to play the extra-time to arrive at a deserving winner. "We might have lost also, but this is no way to decide," said the Railways skipper Sumrai Tete.

Baldev Singh was happy with the decision. For the entire duration of the match, Baldev voiced his grudge against the umpires and the technical bench. But when the formula for joint winners was explained to him, he withdrew all his protests. "There was a high-class umpiring and I have nothing to complain," he said.

Earlier in the day, Jharkhand manoeuvred a 1-0 victory against former champions Mumbai in the third place play-off match.

The championship had opened with 14 teams, 12 qualifiers and two direct entrants — defending champion Railways and the runners-up Indian Universities. The teams were divided into two pools of seven each, but Mizoram, which did remarkably well in the zonal qualifiers, did not arrive.

Besides those who made it to the knockout stage, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa showed determination. Though both were completely swamped by Railways and Haryana, the two teams had the calibre and deserved to be counted. If Uttar Pradesh relied heavily on Meenakshi, it was Nilima Kujur who carried Orissa to the third place finish in pool `A'. Ejren Dadel, Pratima Tirkey and Sangita Minz were also among the goals, clearly justifying the tag Orissa carries of being the nursery of hockey.

The results

Final: Railways 1 (Masira Surin 47th) drew with Haryana 1 (Sandeep Kaur 52nd).

Play-off for third place: Jharkhand 1 (Sarita Lakra 56th) bt Mumbai 0.

Semifinals: Railways 2 (Sumrai Tete 8th, Mamta Kharab 50th) bt Jharkhand 0; Haryana 7 (Kamla Cheema 4th, Jasjeet Kaur 7th, 29th and 40th, Simarjeet 21st, Sandeep Kaur 56th, Sarvjeet 58th) bt Mumbai 1 (Manorama Goswami 45th).

Final points tally in league (read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Pool A: 1. Railways 6-6-0-0-55-0-18; 2. Haryana 6-5-0-1-60-2-15; 3. Orissa 6-4-0-2-25-16-12; 4. Uttar Pradesh 6-3-0-3-15-19-9; 5. Air India 6-2-0-4-9-28-6; 6. Kerala 6-0-1-5-4-51-1; 7. Karnataka 6-0-1-5-4-56-1.

Pool B: 1. Mumbai 5-4-1-0-17-4-13; 2. Jharkhand 5-3-2-0-12-3-11; 3. Delhi 5-2-1-2-15-6-7; 4. PEPSU 5-2-0-3-14-13-6; 5. Indian Universities 5-1-2-2-10-9-5; 6. Chhattisgarh 5-0-0-5-0-33-0.