There was a time in India when a 2 year old boy would have said to his father – Papa, I want to be like Dhyan Chand babu. Pargat Singh, Dhyanchand, K.D. Singh Babu and the other members of the Indian hockey team were the only heroes for India. There was a time when the world knew India by 2 words – Population and Hockey. There was a time when other teams shivered standing in front of the Indian hockey team. There was a time when the final of hockey in the Olympics was called off not because of rain, not because of any technical failure, but because the finalists simply refused to play against the mighty Indians. There was a time when Adolf Hitler bowed down to team India when Germany was ruthlessly thrashed in the finals of the Olympics.
Looking into the facts of that golden era of Indian Hockey – India is currently the most successful team in Olympic history winning the gold medal for a record 8 times. Apart from that, India has won 2 bronze and a silver medal in Hockey. From 1928–1956 India was unbeaten in the Olympics. These facts themselves talk volumes about the then Indian team.
But that golden era is sadly finished and forgotten. From more than 30 years, India has not won a single medal in Olympics for hockey. The country which once dominated the world in hockey has suddenly found itself playing the qualifying matches for the Olympics. Is there something that went wrong drastically?
The answer to this question is NO. This was a gradual process. 1982-1983 was the period which saw the starting of the downfall of hockey in India. After winning the Gold in 1980 Olympics, India did not even finish the podium in the 1982 World Cup in its home turf. The Olympic Gold medalists were shocked, India was shocked. The heroes of the Olympics suddenly became the villains.
After a year or so, India suddenly saw an emergence of a new sport -cricket. In 1983, Kapil Dev’s men shocked the defending champions – the mighty West Indies and lifted the World Cup for the first time. This was the turning point in India’s sporting history. The nation started diverting towards Cricket. This was the start of the debacle of hockey.
Indian hockey team kept on loosing tournaments after tournaments and matches after matches. No one cared, not even the governments, not even the Governing body and not even the people of India who simply forgot that a sport named hockey existed.
After some years K.P.S Gill took over the governing body – IHF (Indian Hockey Federation) opening a new chapter in Indian hockey. The body did not concentrate on leading India to success but only concentrated in making money. The one good thing that IHF did was introducing PHL (Premier Hockey League). After some very fruitful years, it suddenly stopped. No one knows why. People got attracted to the sport through PHL but sadly it was no more. After some very unsuccessful years for India and India not qualifying for the Olympics for the first time since 1928, Ex. Players and some experts questioned IHF’s work. But no one cared to do anything. Soon, a member of the IHF was caught taking bribes for the selection of players in front of cameras. IHF was officially suspended, following this incident.
HI (Hockey India) took over as the governing body. An organisation which was headed by Mrs. Vidya Stokes, an INC (Indian National Congress) woman, who knew nothing about the sport and did not even know anything about management. How can a woman without any knowledge about the sport run the governing body? But none cared. Ric Charlesworth, the man who guided Australia to a gold in the 2010 World Cup publicly said that he was ready to coach India long before the world cup but the Governing body turned his proposal down. Why on earth would you refuse a person of that potential to coach India when he himself was ready to take the job?
Future Seems Bright:
HI covered up for its mistake by appointing Micheal Nobbs as the coach of India, the man that Indian Hockey desperately needed. He guided India to Asian Champions Trophy Gold, a good 2nd place in Champions Challenge & most importantly, helped India in qualifying for the London Olympics. By combining the experienced seniors and aggressive juniors, the coach has turned the team into a fierce and competitive side.
The introduction of World Series Hockey has helped the nation diverge towards Hockey! The inaugural edition of WSH took India by storm! With more than 30 million viewers, it is now the 2nd most watched tournament in the Indian Sub-continent (leaving behind the likes of EPL & F1). Some more years of WSH and it would be a huge success!
Nobbs famously said – “Give me 100 players for 2 years & I will convert them into a world class team!” With only a year gone, it looks like it could well prove true.
The past was golden and the future seems golden! Lets keep our fingers crossed!