Field Hockey is a delightful game to watch and a dangerous game to play. It involves speed, stick work, body feint and stamina. There was a time we were the uncrowned champions of this game and won successive gold medals till the early fifties. Then on till early sixties we shared the glory with another great hockey playing nation Pakistan. We were called,’ wizards with the stick’. Such was our domination. I remember as a college student going to watch hockey matches to packed audiences. There was a lot of enthusiasm amongst the watching public and more number of youngsters would play this game. If I remember right our Leander Pais’s father Vace Pais was an ace player who played for the country. The decline began in the late sixties and never really has recovered as evidenced by the recent drubbings the team received from Australians and Spaniards [at the time of writing].
The question that comes to one’s mind how and why this has happened? My own guess is because of two reasons. One is that the other nations took up to this game in right earnest and prospered. The other is that we let the game take a back seat and allowed Cricket to take over. No youngster wants to be hockey star, they all want o become Tendulkars. So the base pool of players has dried up. It is often said that Europeans win because of their better physique and speed. This is no argument to defend our poor performance. A sardar youngster is as big built as any European and our tribal boys from Jharkhand are speedier than the Europeans.
The only way to avoid being the last ranked among the playing nations is to give Hockey the status and money. The talent will automatically follow because we are natural to this game.
I hope I will live long enough to see that day when India again becomes a top hockey playing nation.