With less than four months to go for the Beijing Olympics, it is time to write a few articles about sports.
The Indian men’s (field) hockey team has failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. This would come as a surprise because if one takes a look at the combined medal table of field hockey (men’s and women’s) of all Olympics, India is right at the top with eight gold medals (and 1 silver and 2 bronze medals) while Australia which is in second place has only four gold medals (and 3 silver and 3 bronze medals). It must be noted here that the Australian women’s team has contributed three of those four gold medals. The Indian women’s team, very sadly, has not contributed a medal so far, but I am sure that they will in the future.
The legendary Dhyan Chand . . .
The shocking news that India failed to qualify for the Olympics does not come as a surprise to fans of Indian hockey though. Indian hockey has been in a state of steady decline. The last time India won a major world event was at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. But that tournament did not involve all the major hockey playing countries of the world. The last time India won such an event was in 1975 at the World Cup held in Kuala Lumpur. Hockey has been in a state of decline ever since, except that gold in 1980.
The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) is primarily, if not solely, responsible for the mess. The people who run the IHF lack a long term vision. Coaches and trainers are hired and axed at the drop of a hat. Strategies and methods change with the coaches and the result is that hockey is being slowly killed in India.
India (and Pakistan) dominated world hockey when it was played on grass. With the introduction of the artificial turf, like many other sports, hockey changed from a being a skill-based sport to one where speed and stamina became more important. India and Pakistan could not adjust to these new conditions. Field hockey is now dominated by the European nations and countries like Australia and Argentina.
But all is not lost though. Hockey is still very popular in several pockets in India. There is plenty of talent as far as the sport is concerned. Children still take up hockey despite the lack of a promising career which only one sport in the country offers at the moment. The Premier Hockey League (PHL) began with a lot of promise, but it still has some way to go before we get to see the results.
What we need is a good administration. An administration with a long term vision for hockey. Hockey may never draw in the spectators and advertisers like cricket, but I see no reason why India cannot win the gold at the 2012 London Olympics. This new low should serve as a wake up call and if the IHF gets its act together, I see no reason why India cannot claim both the gold medals at the next Olympics.