"India to be selective about participation in future tourneys after umpiring blunders in Sultan Azlan Shah" - Narinder Batra Interview
Indian senior men’s hockey team may have finished their 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign on a happy note, putting it across arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 to claim the fifth spot. But the memories of how India nearly missed out on figuring in the bronze medal play-off tie thanks to a controversial final minute penalty stroke by Korean umpire Lim Jung Woo, which helped Malaysia to play out a 2-2 draw and shut the podium finish door on the Blueshirts won’t be forgotten in a tearing hurry.
There is an outpouring of anger and frustration among hockey lovers over how the national team has been repeatedly at the receiving end of poor umpiring decisions. Only last year in the 2012 Asian Champions Trophy in Doha, India walked off the field when again another Korean umpire Shin Yun Dong first awarded a penalty stroke and later reversed his decision, seemingly buckling under pressure from the Pakistan players after consulting the third umpire.
Taking a realistic view of the repeated umpiring blunders against India, Hockey India (HI) was left fuming over the incident. “We are deeply disappointed and frustrated at the turn of events during the India-Malaysia match. Korean umpire Lim Jung Woo, who is five yards away from the action, first awards a penalty corner and then consults his fellow Australian umpire Ben de Yong and reverses his decision to a penalty stroke which is unacceptable to us,” Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra said in exclusive interview to Sportskeeda.
Batra said the hockey body would now tread a cautious path as far as participation in future tournaments are concerned. “We would discuss this issue at our next executive board meeting. We just feel that there is a need to be more selective about our participation in future international tournaments, especially those held in Asia,” he reasoned.
The Hockey India secretary general expressed his helplessness to pursue the umpiring issue with FIH. “Well, there is no procedure at present to protest against any umpiring decisions to FIH. So, there is no way that we can take up this issue with the world governing body.”
The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey tournament is conducted under the aegis of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF). And Batra is one of the AHF vice-presidents. “As part of AHF, I would try my best to ensure such umpiring blunders don’t happen in big matches, or for that manner in any match,” he makes his point clear.
Batra questioned how Korean umpire Lim Jung Woo can officiate in a India-Malaysia match when his own country stood a chance of making a podium finish. “Had India won against Malaysia, they would have played New Zealand in the bronze medal play-off match. The draw hurt us the most as Korea went through to the bronze medal play-off game at our expense. So it was not fair to have a Korean umpire officiating though I don’t want to blame anyone,” he quips.
The unsavoury incidents of the 2012 Asian Champions Trophy final which India lost 4-5 to Pakistan is still fresh in Batra’s mind. “We were let down in Doha again by a Korean umpire Shin Yun Dong. He gave us a stroke only to cancel it after consulting the third umpire who was 50 yards away from the action,” he recalls.
He said poor umpiring decisions can have a demoralizing effect on the players. “The boys work hard to get a result in their favour but such umpiring gaffes can be demoralizing for the players,” he signed off.