Let’s read some headlines of newspapers over a span of time
1936 :- Major Dhyanchand scores 3 goals and thus India wins its 3rd consecutive Olympic gold medal.
1956:- Indian Hockey team wins its 6th gold medal in Olympics.
1979 :- Major Dhyanchand dies in AIIMS hospital unattended. The world loses the wizard of Hockey.
2008:- Indian Hockey team does not even qualify for Beijing Olympics.
2011 : Government raises questions as to why Major Dhyanchand should be awarded a Bharat Ratna.
This set of news tells the whole story that if the greatest player of world hockey shares this plight, what should national level players expect. Well, now the condition has worsened.
The players’ rebellion that recently crippled the national hockey camp for the World Cup is the real reflection of the state of Indian hockey. Players’ camps are like dormant volcanoes waiting to explode. Not only pending wages and promised incentives, senior stars were upset that the bigwigs were playing havoc with the life and careers of many players like the blinded goalkeeper, Baljeet Singh.
Hit by a golf ball in the eye during a training camp in Pune, Baljeet’s international career is on hold. The goalkeeper, who was India’s No. 1 till he lost vision ahead of the tour of Europe last year, is a classic example of official apathy and lack of governance.
Indian hockey took off in 1920. After this, India was the top team for almost next 3 decades and had won 5 Olympic gold in a row. But the Indian stranglehold over the Olympic gold came to an end when Pakistan defeated India in the final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. Since then the team has not got any considerable success.As a result, the popularity of the game has decreased and today Indian hockey has reached its nadir.
The reason for the collapse of the game is not only the lack of talent in the players, but also the emergence of the other competitive teams like Pakistan, Germany, Australia etc.The other reasons are: less coverage of the game by media, it has become a game for a few Indians. The game is also linked with regionalism in between as the maximum number of the players of the team belonged to Punjab and Haryana. The ill-administration and politics are also the reasons for the downfall of the sport.
When Indian hockey team was not performing well, it was the Indian cricket team doing good for the nation by not only winning several series, but also becoming the number one team of the world.The people were automatically attracted towards the cricket.The cricket team was more strong, there were several advertisements made for its popularity, it started generating more revenue than hockey, there was a lot of media attention given to the game considering its popularity and the game got several sponsors unlike the Indian hockey team.
In India there is no other sport as hyped as cricket. On top of it, the involvement of the famous faces of Bollywood has made it more glamorous. Though the celebrities are also showing their involvement in hockey but it is not enough. For instance, before the World Cup earlier this year, there was an advertisement by Hero Honda-“fir dil do hockey ko, hero honda dhak dhak go”. In this ad, celebrities were used. But the sad part was, even the cricketers were used to promote the game. But it is not the same in case of cricket.Hockey players are never used because people hardly know them, moreover cricket does not require much advertisements as it is already hyped.
Hockey federation or the governing body has always failed to capitalize on the situation and gather enough funds to provide infrastructure for the players. It is infamously said that even cows are ashamed of grazing on grounds our players get to play. Deep rooted corruption has charred the system and barred progress of the sport and the recent K.P.S Gill- Jyothikumaran incident has left the game tottering on the verge of extinction in this country.
Lack of encouragement and opportunities has evaded the eligible to take up hockey as a career option; moreover incidents like the 1982 Asian Games Final has dilapidated the situation. India’s 1-7 loss to Pakistan was treated with humiliation and then goal keeper Mir Ranjan Negi was clamored with criticism, in an interview with journalist Anand Philar after the event Negi expressed his anguish (excerpts of that interview: “Everywhere I went, I was abused by the public”). In those days, no loss on the cricket field would have moved us in a similar manner. The reason for this lies in the fact that Hockey, more than any other game, was deeply etched in the Indian culture.
Unlike other sports, Hockey has a glorious past in India and basking on this glory has plagued the system with complacency. Who is responsible for this state of the sport? Should the government intervene, since this is a national sport? Would a capable administration be sufficient to resurrect the situation? Answers to these questions may not suffice; a complete overhaul should be the mandate. Every aspect of the game involving infrastructure, selection process, fees and funds, coaching and non-coaching staff etc have to be upgraded to world-class level.
A non-government run non-political federation, like Cricket’s BCCI, with a proper agenda and principles is the first pre-requisite. Incentives and handsomely paying jobs are the minimal needs for a player, capable coaching and non-coaching staff marks the difference between winning and losing. And lastly, the most crucial element is sponsorship and media coverage. A conglomeration of all these factors can return Indian hockey to the pinnacle.