Sunday, March 14, 2010

The other side of "Indian Hockey"

Tamil Nadu Express was about to start.Passengers were busy in keeping luggages and bidding farewell to their dear ones.It was 2003.I was in Indian Railways and I was going to Delhi for official work.It was 2 tier AC coach and normally in 2 tier AC coaches you can find many Railway officials who use their free railway passes.In the opposite Berth , a Tall Dark Handsome person who may be around 50 years old was seated.His face was familiar .I was observing him and he found me observing and gave me a smile.I smiled back but my brain was busy in recalling who this person was.Suddenly it flashed in my memory.I asked him," Are you Baskaran?". He was so happy that atleast someone recognised him. He was Vasudevan Baskaran, the captain of Indian Hockey Team which won Olympics Gold Medal in 1980. That was the last Gold Medal India won in Hockey. Baskaran's achievment was part of Tamil Nadu School Curriculum and I told him that I had read about him in my school days.He was more than happy. He was Senior Sports Officer in Southern Railways at that time and he was going to Delhi for a meeting. He started asking about me.Tamil Nadu Express takes around 32 hours to reach Delhi. Except the sleeping time, we were discussing during the entire train journey.Even though we discussed on many topics, our discussions were centred mostly on Indian Hockey. We became very close friends after this train journey and I used to visit his office whenever I was in Chennai.

After the failure of our Indian Hockey Team in World Cup that too when it was home ground, I was remembering my discussions with Baskaran.He told that changes in international playing conditions, infrastructural constraints,internal politics etc have eroded India's supremacy in Hockey. In my view,yes these factors are important for India's declining performance in Hockey, but the most important villain which has destroyed Hockey in India is 'Cricket' .Whole country is crazy about cricket.Even if last Indian Batsman is batting, and if 18 runs are required in last ball, every Indian watches with a hope that there will be two 'NO' balls and our last batsman will go for hatrick sixers and will win the game.India has won world cup in cricket only once but UNFORTUNATELY it coincided with advent of TVs in middle class homes. Industrial sponsors preferred 'Cricket' because it gave them 'whole day' for advertising whereas Hockey gets over within 70 minutes.TV channels also preferred cricket because of the same reason.Some may argue that Hockey's failure should not be related to cricket. If sponsorships are there only for cricket, where will the fund come from for making international standard hockey grounds in India.Our hockey players practice in 'low quality' grounds and get defeated when they play in 'international quality grounds'.

Some may say that only 'Cricket' has got recognition for India. They forget to remember that India has not won a world cup after 1983.The only recognition cricket has got for India is,world recognises that there are crores of Indians who sit at home in office hours and watch cricket even if their office is Indian Parliament and compare their players (who stay in studios and are busy before cameras in giving advertisements) with their jawans (who stay in bunkers with snowfall and enemy's shell fall around).On the contrary, hockey gave a recognition to India even before India got freedom.In 1936, Berlin Olympics, Indian contingent headed by a Major named Dhyan Chand sang Vande Mataram and hoisted tri colour national flag in its dressing room. During opening ceremony march past, teams from all over the world saluted Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler, except USA.The only other team which did not salute Hitler was the Indian team(called British India those days) and the flag bearer was Major Dhyan Chand. The finals of Hockey match was between the home team Germany and India. Adolf Hitler was seated in the stadium and was supporting his team to prove the world that Germany is invincible in every field. In the "first half", India was '1' and Germany was '0'. In "first half", Germans played a rough game and Major Dhyan Chand had lost his tooth.The Indian hockey contingent knew that if the lead was just one goal, things would change in a moment in Germany's favour in the "second half "of the game.Major Dhyan Chand, the captain of Indian Team got first aid for his tooth,then removed his shoes because he thought he was not getting grip to run in wet ground(when all the Germans were in attacking mode and were wearing shoes with spikes). He played with bare foot and scored 6 goals against the Germans in second half.India not only won gold medal but also got recognition for India that Indian nation is a nation with fighting spirit.

Berlin Olymics was not the only occasion in which Indian Hockey made us proud.India is the only country in the world to win 6 consecutive Olympic gold medals. Our grand parents and parents used to listen to the live commentary of Indian Hockey's onslaught in field. It was 1948 and England was the host for Olympic games. Indians participated first time as an independent country. Our tri colour national flag was officially hoisted.As usual our Hockey team was slaughtering its opponents and moved to the finals.Interestingly the other team which moved to finals was England. The finals was between the conqueror(England) and the conquered(India).Whole world watched with eagerness about the outcome. Kishan Lal who was the captain of Indian team and his boys massacred England by scoring '4' goals and not allowing England to score even a single goal. Probably this was a retaliation for Jallianwalla bagh massacre but in a Gandhian way. Whole world applauded when India won Gold medal against England. This winning episode continued(with occasional setbacks) till our Baskaran's team won gold in 1980 Moscow Olympics. Things changed after 1983 Cricket world cup win.People forgot the national game. If India wins a cricket match against Holland or Bangladesh, it became a first page news item whereas if India wins Asia Cup in Hockey, its a last page two line news item.The lazy game of cricket has been found very lucrative for sponsors, media etc.Under these changed circumstances, where hockey players are like orphans, even if they don't win medals, we should feel proud of them because when all their friends in schools and colleges took cricket bat, these brave boys took hockey stick and are trying to win. Even if they don't win, they are the real winners.


(2) Dhyan chand sang Vande Mataram in 1936 Berlin Olympics


  1. Good post. Not only Hockey, even other games have been eclipsed by cricket.

  2. Nice One Jeba... Bhaskaran was a good business man apart from working in Railways --- he owns a series of Gym where I and some of my friends from my sports club were called to act in a documentary TV program... REgarding the Major Dhyan Chand, I was not aware... thank you for posting these good information...

  3. Very nice blog about the prevailing state of Hockey in India. Helps to know about the Indian Hockey History too. Wish every Indian (especially fanatic cricket fans) should read this blog. Nice. Keep on writing. Thank you.

  4. That was a good one. I think the SOLE REASON for the rot in Hockey today is its administrators and within that group the crown goes to KPS Gill.


  5. why men are always so serious?why cant they take things easily?whats wrong being fanatic cricket fan?leave it yaa

  6. Yet another sad story of Indian bureaucracy and total freedom which is proving to be a stumbling block for our nations progress.

  7. Looks like you forgot to watch the recent Hockey world cup Mr.Israel...'cause if u had you would've seen that the stadium was full and the matches were telecasted live.the TRP of the sports channel which was telecasting the HWC was the highest in a long time.Sahara was the sponsorer and Hero Honda roped up many biggies to advertise the event. Hockey is in this pathetic condition not because of cricket or its fans but because of its internal politics. Fans hail people who win n shun those who lose. It happens in all sports.Who knew about Abhinav Bindra or Vijender singh...till they won medals in olympic. With due respect to the Hockey team i feel that The sports persons hav to prove themselves consistantly and not talk about the pre independence victory. The cric team might not hav won WC after 83 but as of now we r the No.1 test team,No.2 Oneday team and 5th in T20. I think that says a lot about the attention it is getting.As a hockey fan i really hope they get the same attention one day.

  8. Smitha, its good that you have given another perception to this topic. TRP rating you are talking is about Indo-Pak opening match held on Sunday at 8 30pm. Please compare the TRP of India Vs other countries WORLD CUP Hockey matches with IPL.You dont need to compare with TRP ratings of Cricket World cup(Its too much) but please compare with JUST IPL where not India but only Indian Cricketers are playing.
    For Hockey ,Olympic Gold is the yardstick among fans.For Tennis,its Grandslam especially wimbledon. For Cricket, its one day world cup. The ratings of 1 st in Test Cricket 2nd in one day or 5th in T20 is volatile because few weeks before India was not and few weeks later India will not be the same.Hockey won Gold Medal NOT ONLY before independence but after also. Indian Hockey has made us proud by winning 6 consecutive gold medals.In Cricket whether India won any world cup before or after 1983. Moreover even in that world cup, there is big controversy whether india won OR west Indies lost.
    I agree with you that Hockey is pathetic and has lot of internal politics. But infights were there since long in Hockey(but they have wons so many Golds)and it is there in every game including cricket. So that is not a reason for the poor performance of Hockey.
    The central theme of the post is ,Hockey is suffering because of cricket.Multiple world billiards champion Geet Sethi, a promoter of a sports fund dedicated to funding athletes with potential of winning India a first individual Olympic gold medal, voiced his concern in a newspaper article recently. "The fanatical obsession called cricket has just joined hands with the film world to create a new pastime (I consciously refrain from calling it sport) where it will gain even further visibility and media hype fuelled by both cricket and Bollywood,This in turn will almost certainly divert sponsorship which could have gone to disciplines with a genuine chance of winning India that Olympic gold".

  9. You have your points Aeron. Commercialisation has crept into different sports in different coountries. TV channels beam them 24 hours, newspapers report pages and pages of the same, advertisers hire the sportsmen to promote products, and soon you have created a new trend.
    One might notice how cricket has evolved from a 5 day match to a 1 day to a 20 over match. It is all about pulling crowds for the organisers to make money. Sadly truly sport and sportspersons are the losers.

  10. Honestly, nobody thinks T20 as cricket.It is just pure entertainment,actually a dangerous one for the real sport of cricket.On a diff perspective, it is this versatality of the game that has made it so popular.You can play cricket anywhere with just 2 ppl.for instance.... My hubby,2 kids n I play 4 overs cricket on the front porch of my house which measures roughly 4' by 30' where each of us get an over to bowl, bat n field. whereas to play any other sport we hav to go to a ground which is 5 blocks away (which we do on weekends when we hav lots of time to spare). My point is, it is not the commercilisation,sponsership,live relay of the matches or roping in the players for ads has made cricket popular...actually it is the other way,media and the sponsorers are cashing in on cricket's popularity. But holding cricket responsible for the downfall of other sports is just not correct. As a regular sports channel viewer i see that each and every sport where India has played have been telecasted live and sufficiently advertised.Sportspersons in every field hav been receiving Arjuna and Padma awards regularly. If the Indian Hockey board is busy gobbling up all the funds where will they find money to spend on upgrading the quality of the grounds...forget grounds even the players are not paid their due. how is cricket responsible for this?
    PS.. My phrase about pre independence victory was a sarcastic expression as one of the frustrated fans who was doting on the Indian hockey team in the recent WC.Plz dont take it seriously :-)

  11. Smitha, i respect your views. I also played cricket in front of my house when i was a kid. But we all play cricket not because its easy but because we are made to believe that its easy and entertaining.Try football or kabaddi in the same portico.It would be more entertaining, interesting and also healthy but we wont because we are used to only cricket.We are just cheated by the money spinning machines like BCCI without we realising it. I agree that sportspersons from different games get Arjuna and dhronocharya award and DD telecasts every game. But these are like National Film Awards. The producer does not earn money in the market but gets ONLY award and very soon he and his director will be doing only documentary films.
    The fact is, Cricket has been made popular based on commercial considerations.Most of us do not know that BCCI is just a private club consortium and is a society registered in Tamil Nadu.Why they should select Indian team. Reason is, it is private club but headed and influenced by powerful industrial houses.Its a money spinning machine. IPL is another venture for money spinning. Delhi Daredevils Vs Mumbai Indians.They make us to believe that Mumbai heroes are fighting against Delhi warriors so that Delhiites and Mumbaikars will see the match and people of other parts will align with this side or that side and see the match.Is it really Mumbai Team or Delhi Team? It is just a money spinning machine.Today we all realise that IPL is just commercial organisation because its recent born but after 5 years you and me will be made to believe that its a real fight between Mumbai and Delhi like we all Indians are made to believe today that BCCI represents India eventhough its just a consortium of Private Clubs headed by Industrialists.
    Its nothing wrong if Cricket is popular because its also an entertainment like Hollywood and Bollywood( the only difference being the actors wear uniforms and perform live).My only grievance is, it is sytematically taking away major chunk of funds and leaving peanuts to other games which in turn kill other games.

  12. Nice blog.I wish everyone should read it once.

  13. It is the most amazing experience about sports.Thanks for sharing this informative blog with us..

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