Repeated non-telecast of international matches a dampener for Indian hockey buffs!
There is so much talk going around in various quarters about the need to uplift the sport of hockey in the country. So much has been documented about the crying need to arrest the dipping popularity of hockey.
Granted, a sport’s popularity hinges a lot on the national team’s performance on the international stage. And our national team has done the best it could at the 34th FIH Champions Trophy, finishing a creditable fourth after the walloping at the London Olympics.
But is a good performance from the national team enough to raise the popularity of the sport? The answer is a big ‘no’ – a team may deliver consistently on the international stage, but it would be a futile exercise if it is unaccompanied by extensive television coverage.
The repeated non-telecast of the national hockey team’s recent international engagements has been a huge disappointing for our ardent hockey fans.
If we delve deep into Indian team’s 2012 international assignments, we quickly realize that barring the 2012 Olympic qualifiers and the 34th Champions Trophy (Ten Sports has exclusive rights for live telecast of FIH-run tournaments), and London Olympics (for which ESPN-Star Sports have bought exclusive rights), none of the other international tournaments featuring the Indian men’s and women’s teams were shown live on any of the sports channels; worse, not even a highlights package of these events was shown.
The 2012 Sultan Azlan Shah held in Malaysia almost suffered the same fate before Neo Sports stepped in at the last minute and provided live telecast of the tournament.
The senior men’s team is currently playing in the 2nd Asian Champions Trophy in Doha and for the second time (like the inaugural edition last year), there is no live telecast of the event.
Even the senior women’s team took part in a Champions Challenge tournament in Ireland and later in a six Test series in New Zealand this year, but sadly no arrangements were made for live telecast or even a highlights package of both these tourneys.
If there can be no live telecast for senior teams, it is pointless to expect live telecast of international tournaments featuring our junior teams – for instance, the 2nd Sultan of Johor Cup (where India finished runners-up) met the same fate.
One is not sure who is to be blamed for the sorry state of affairs. Hockey India – the body that runs the sport in the country – must take some responsibility for the current scenario. If BCCI can evince interest in television coverage of the Indian cricket team’s international games, why can’t HI at least take a cue from them, if not match them?
It’s surprising that Hockey India did all the spadework to sign a multi-year broadcast deal with ESPN Star Sports for live telecast of the inaugural Hockey India League, but they seem incapable of working out any telecast arrangements for our national team’s international tournaments, save for the Olympics and FIH-run events.
What’s more, ESPN Star Sports has also won the global broadcast rights to telecast five Tests matches featuring India (to be played in India) every year for the next five years. With a more proactive approach, I’m sure HI could have facilitated the live telecast of the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy as well as the other international tourneys of our men’s and women’s teams.
Indian women’s team badly needs a big push and merely taking part in international tournaments sans television coverage would be a dampener as far as raising the profile of the sport in the country is concerned.
As for the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy, one is not sure what role Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) – the organisers of the tournament – could have played in ensuring television coverage of the event. Non-telecast of the event for the second time running not only dilutes the profile of the tournament but also deprives hockey fans of seeing their national players in action.
Hockey India secretary Narinder Batra is also one of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) vice presidents, and surely he could have used his good office in ensuring live telecast of the tourney.
One fully understands that providing live telecast of an event is easier said than done. Notwithstanding that, one wants to know why the people concerned could not spare some efforts to show a highlights package of our national teams’ international engagements.
Squarely blaming HI is not enough. National sports broadcaster – DD Sports – must also pull up its socks in this regard. DD Sports greets you with repeated broadcast of the stale London Olympics and hardly comes up with live telecast of major events these days.
It is difficult to say whether it is lack of will of people concerned or official bottlenecks that deprives hockey fans of watching their national players (men and women) on television.
Clearly, the Indian hockey fans deserve much more!