Axing of Indian hockey captain Ritu Rani brings back memories of Chak De! India
Chak De! India, a film dedicated to Indian women's hockey is an unforgettable movie for sports lovers in our country. The movie won the box office with breakthrough performances of the team coached by Kabir Khan, who guided them to be the winners of Hockey World Cup and make the nation proud. Shahrukh Khan, who apparently played the role of Kabir Khan, turned a bunch of girls into a unit that went on to win the tournament on the silver screen.
Last year, the Indian women's hockey team too qualified for the biggest sporting extravaganza of the world after a gap of 36 years. Almost a year later, 18 girls have now left for the United States of America to play their last set of practice matches before heading to Rio, de Janerio for the Olympic Games.
The morale of the girls is high knowing they will play in the Summer Games after such a long time. Every player dreams of playing there once and so did the captain of Indian women's hockey captain.
Unfortunately, Ritu Rani was dropped from the squad under controversial 'circumstances' a week before Olympics and I cannot stop thinking about Bindiya Naik, the star centre-half from Chak De! India.
One of the best things about the movie was her expressive performance as a character who doesn't express much emotion at all. So is Ritu Rani. One of the finest players in the team and the most experienced, Ritu led the team to Olympic qualification glory but is allergic to showing emotions. Feeling betrayed at her exclusion from the squad, she could not control herself and broke down on national television yesterday.
No one can take away the “ Sattar Minute”
Her performance and experience suggest waters that run deep and could have been utilized in the upcoming competition. Who knows? Maybe she was unhappy with inefficient management or lack of facilities like Bindiya, but a player who can give her heart and soul for the team should not have been omitted from the squad for the most important tournament of her life.
In his pep talk to the team just before the final, Kabir Khan told them whatever happens in the rest of their lives, no one can take the next 70 minutes away from them. It is not known whether the team will become eventual champions, but rest assured Rani will miss those 60 (not 70) minutes, probably which could have been the high point of her life by a long way.
Knowing the strengths, weaknesses, and strategies of competitors are important when you are going to the Olympics and the experienced Ritu Rani perfectly had all three qualities. Rani has been part of the squad since she was 14 and has more than 200 international caps under her name. The 24-year-old has led the team to two bronze medal finishes in recent times – at the 2013 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Over the years, she has formulated appropriate strategies to exploit the weaknesses of the competitors, which will be missed this time. The team has been uniting like a common goal in all these past few months, pretty much like the bashing episode at McDonalds.
A close source to Ritu Rani told Sportskeeda that the selection was not fair for the Games, but how vital her axing turns out to be can only be judged after Olympics. But this bunch of girls should have 'won' together because sometimes winning is important.
The particular decision of her not going to Rio Olympic Games can remind you so many different issues portrayed in the game like racism, tribalism, extreme nationalism, sexism, and egoism. What exactly could have been the reason behind her ouster?
At times, films reflect the society and help us to understand the societal dynamics. Chak De! India evoked a flood of emotions inside the viewers and brought us together. It's only time when the selected 16 girls will play on blue turf in Brazil and we will watch them sing the national anthem.
And so will Ritu Rani sitting at home. Whatever it is, we have failed her.