This is not the end of the world

Balbir Singh Sr... triple Olympic gold medallist (1948, '52 & '56) and captain at the Melbourne Games.-R. V. MOORTHY Balbir Singh Sr... triple Olympic gold medallist (1948, '52 & '56) and captain at the Melbourne Games.

To enable hockey to regain its popularity all over the country more attention has to be paid to the National Championships. Its current pattern needs to be changed, writes Balbir Singh Sr.

Hockey has been my first love since childhood. Having been associated with the game for a long time, I am hurt deep inside. It is very easy to criticise, but difficult to be constructive. Still, when the question of responsibility arises it is only natural for every body to look towards the parent body, i.e. the Indian Hockey Federation. There is much room for improvement in the administration of the game. However, there are also other reasons for India’s debacle in Santiago.

The government, big business houses, mass media and the general public have not been paying fair and equal attention to all sports. Take a look at our results in the Olympics and other world-level competitions; due to the step-motherly treatment meted out to all sports, including the National game of hockey, which put India on the world sports map 80 years ago, they have been gradually dying.

In the absence of due recognition to former gold medal winners, talented youngsters turn to other sports that promise lucrative cash rewards. Consequently, the hockey fields in educational institutions are deserted and the hockey base in the country is gradually vanishing.

The current selection methods are seldom free from intentional or unintentional bias of respective selectors. Objective selection tests and periodic skill competitions are necessary for fair and better selection and raising the standard of the game.

Of late there have been drastic changes in rules and playing surface of hockey. We have not yet properly adjusted to the new pattern of the modern game and thus lag far behind.

By giving importance to PHL at the cost of the National Championship, the scope for talent search has been narrowed down drastically. To enable hockey to regain its popularity all over the country more attention has to be paid to the Nationals. Its current pattern needs to be changed. The 50-odd state/departmental teams may be ranked in order of their merit and divided into six or eight pools. The teams in each pool may play the Nationals at different places against their equals, thereby avoiding the humiliation of losing to stronger teams by big margins. Moreover, big wins could also make the stronger teams complacent. Subsequently, based on the pool results, the top and bottom teams in each pool should be promoted and demoted respectively.

The appointment of officials for the National teams, selectors and other committees in the IHF should be based strictly on their performances.

Yoga and breathing exercises help the players to maintain their cool in tense situations at the international competitions where the prestige of the nation is involved. This would save them from yellow and red cards that upset the team’s entire game-plan.

Coaching is a living science. What was latest yesterday becomes obsolete today. To keep abreast of the latest techniques in the world, our coaches need to attend periodic advanced courses at selected institutes abroad or at camps arranged in India. Modern hockey demands that.

Indian hockey has failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but the country is alive and moving forward successfully in different spheres. This is not the end of the world. We should learn from our mistakes and start afresh. Hockey is in our blood. Let’s think positive.