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Why the Hockey India League need to relook the decision to bar players over the age of 30 from featuring in its auction

Suhrid Barua
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 04 Sep 2015, 10:57 IST
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Adrian D’Souza during his days as Indian goalkeeper

The 2016 Hero Hockey India League is still some months away, but the league has ruffled the feathers of many after Hockey India – the organizers of the much-hyped league – took a decision to bar Indian players who are over 30 years of age from the upcoming auction pool for the 2016 edition.

The move not to allow over 30 aged Indian players from the auction pool has not gone down well with many. This latest rule change becomes even more difficult to digest simply because foreign players above 30 years are eligible to be part of the auction pool.

The latest HI’s move must be extremely disappointing news for the slew of former internationals, who are over 30 and who perhaps look upon the Hero Hockey India League as their only ray of hope to force a national comeback as their strong performances in non-televised domestic tourneys often struggle to grab attention of the selectors unlike the HIL, which is widely televised and every move of a player can be easily captured.

The likes of former Indian captain Rajpal Singh, Arjun Halappa, who is now a HI selector (still plays for Air India), Deepak Thakur, Prabodh Tirkey and Adrian D’Souza still have plenty left in their tank and it is not fair to write them off just because they are on the wrong side of thirty.

One fails to understand why there is a deep-seated perception in Indian hockey that players above 30 are slow in their reflexes and are a liability for their sides. Look at Adrian D’Souza – he was in superb form in the recently-held Guru Tegh Bahadur Gold Cup Tournament. Of course, Hockey India’s keenness to encourage youngsters is all welcome as they are our future but the same time an impression should not be created that the team only relies on youngsters.

Let the teams pick whom they want

Hockey India should have kept these over 30 aged Indian players in the HIL auction pool and let the franchises take a call on whether they want these players in their respective teams. Clearly, Hockey India hasn’t sent a right message by barring over 30 Indian players from the auction pool. There is no harm in having them in the auction pool as every franchise would know well how to use their money.

If they any of over 30 players are not enough to sustain the rigors of HIL hockey they would not pick them, which should have been the way forward rather than HI red-flagging their participation in the auction pool. After all, these over 30 players won’t be blocking the way of youngsters as only a handful of them appear good enough to deserve a spot in a HIL franchise.

There are confusing signals sent out by the move to allow over 30 foreign players to be part of the auction pool. Are we insinuating that our over 30 players are not just good enough to be part of HIL and that over 30 players of other nations are far superior to their Indian counterparts.

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“This is disappointing – age should not be a barrier for any player – guys like Deepak Thakur and Adrian D’Souza are not regularly playing in the domestic circuit but also performing. Let them be part of the auction pool and let franchises decide on their utility,” said a former Indian player.

One sincerely hopes that Hockey India rethinks this late move and allows over 30 Indian players to be part of the auction pool.

Published 04 Sep 2015, 10:39 IST
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