Bringing a great feeling of joy

THE Indian hockey team's recent performances have been tremendous and have brought great joy to Indian sportslovers who believe that hockey is our national sport.

SUNIL GAVASKAR

THE Indian hockey team's recent performances have been tremendous and have brought great joy to Indian sportslovers who believe that hockey is our national sport. The victories have come against top opposition and so are all the more heartwarming. The wins have shown that all the talk of how astro-turf had destroyed Asian hockey is now a thing of the past.

India's hockey players, Jugraj Singh, Dilip Tirkey and Dhanraj Pillay, celebrate the team's victory in the Hamburg Masters tourney. — Pic. AP-

Like most teams, India too took its time to adjust to the new rules and regulations in the sport, but now has shown that without losing its natural skills, it has also mastered the art of staying the speed distance in the modern world of hockey. One prays now that the victories are capitalised and built upon so that next year India can get that elusive (Olympic) medal which was once a formality to get.

Power is indeed the most important of weapons in the current sporting world along with speed, but as the Indian cricket team has shown, if one has skills and simple sporting sense then one can be successful too. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have shown that they don't have to be big and strong to send the ball over the ropes and timing and placement can get them maximum runs even off the feared and fastest of bowlers or the wiliest of spinners. Then, if the team plays as one with the single aim of winning, then again it can overcome most obstacles. India's hockey performances have shown that in ample measure and kudos are due to those who have managed to generate this splendid spirit in the team.

There's an erroneous feeling that sportspersons look upon sports other than theirs with a jaundiced eye. Yes, there will always be the odd sportsperson who will feel that his skills and deeds are not getting the recognition and rewards that some other sports are getting, but in general there's a great feeling of joy when other sporting teams or individuals do well, for it brings glory to the country. Everytime there's a sports function where all sportspersons are invited, it's a special pleasure and a privilege to meet and rub shoulders with them.

The recent Hero Indian Sports Academy Awards function was one such event where it was a treat to meet stars from other sports and spend some time with them. To be able to be in the same room with the likes of Dhanraj Pillay, Anjali Vedpathak-Bhagwat, P. Gopi Chand, Baichung Bhutia to name a few, along with former stalwarts and champions like Michael Ferreira, P. T. Usha, Pargat Singh as well as the legendary Kapil Dev, Edwin Moses and Ian Botham was very special indeed. It was good to see the Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly along with some of his teammates attend the function where most of the awards went to other sports and sportspersons. They would have also felt the warm vibes coming through other winners and it was indeed an evening to remember and cherish.

English sports-lovers will have to wait for one more year to find out if their `Tim' has the bottle to go on to win the Championships at Wimbledon. This year, his campaign was brought to a halt by the Frenchman Grosjean in the quarter-finals and it was a bitter blow for his supporters who thought that with Agassi out early, their man had a great chance to put his name on the winner's trophy. Though the defending champion Lleyton Hewitt faltered in the first round, Australia still had a man in the finals (though he did not manage to get the monkey off his back).

For long, Philippoussis has been thought of as the one, with his lightning serve, most likely to win the men's singles title, but he has simply not delivered. He has had problems with injury, with attitude, with lifestyle but this one major title can change it all and make him a more consistent and feared player on the circuit.

Champion Roger Federer also got an opportunity to show what he has promised but seldom delivered and it's been quite amusing to read sportswriters from America suggest that it's time now for Federer to win major titles while they say nothing about Roddick who has been talked about as America's newest hope but who looks hopeless in the majors. If anything, he has shown that though he has the speed of serve, if one doesn't have an all-round game, then it's tough to win a major tournament, once again underscoring that even in modern sport, one has to have the skills and the temperament and not just power and speed. In the women's singles, the Williams sisters again met in the final and it was good to see Serena exact her revenge, especially after what happened in her semi-final clash with Henin-Hardenne in the French Open Championship.

Modern sport unfortunately gets away with unsporting behaviour under the guise of the umpires and referees being there to call what's right or wrong, even when the player knows that he or she is in the wrong. The thinking is that such decisions even out in the end, but what about the sour taste it leaves behind, and is there a real sense of achievement when one knows that one has taken deliberate and unfair advantage of the opponent? It's even sadder when one team or individual plays the sport in the right spirit and the opponents wait to take every advantage possible to win at all costs.

Being cynical and joining the others in their unsporting ways does the sport no good whatsoever and in fact brings the enjoyment level down for spectators. To hear the Australian coach and captain say when Adam Gilchrist `walked' in the World Cup that they would not encourage others to do the same was disappointing to say the least. Australia has a team that can win even without taking advantage of umpiring errors and it would have been wonderful to have heard appreciation for Gilchrist from the players and not just from the spectators and part of the media..

Perhaps the old days were no better but with modern TV coverage, it is exposed and seen more than in the past. Modern sport has many things to marvel at and acclaim, but the trend to take any advantage and bend the rules does take a fair bit of the sheen away.