There was a time we reigned supreme in this game. For over 50 years till the sixties we were unbeatable. Then started the era of decline. Slowly and gradually Cricket took over and Indians switched their loyalty and showered money, love and adoration to this game. But there were a few like me who continued to nurture our love for the game of Hockey. Hockey has some features which Cricket can’t have. It needs skill, speed and stamina. You cannot afford to loll at first slip or mid on and while away your time even if you are past 35 and your only qualification is that you are a good batter and the country loves you. I wrote about how the short form of Cricket, The so called Indian Premier League has sounded the death knell of the real Cricket, the Test Cricket. That this shorter version played in the IPL is hugely popular does not make my statement less true. Over the years we had to bear this pain of popularity at the cost of talent and merit. One look at our politicians and their popularity will make us wonder how these people can be popular. Look at the likes of Yeddyappa, Mulyamsingh and the Dalit Queen Mayawati, and you will understand what I say. This is also true to some extent as far as the twenty twenty form of cricket is concerned.
While I intensely dislike the abridged form of cricket, there is no chance of this happening to Hockey. Hockey, unlike Cricket has no abridged version. It is played over a period of 60 to 90 minutes and the result is guaranteed. India over the past ten years had a dismal record both the quality ofplay and its administration. We did not even qualify for the last Olympics. This time however we did qualify by beating France. I watched that game and it brought back memories of the golden era of Indian Hockey. This was followed by two weeks of scintillating Hockey which went by the name of World league of Hockey.
Taking the cue from the IPL the organizers of the World Hockey league divided the teams based on Urban centers and called the teams with fancy names. There were players from Australia, Canada, Pakistan, and Malaysia in this league along with Indians. It was a spectator’s delight.
That the Indians who played were not the best [as the top 20 who played for the country were not allowed to play in this league for the fear of injury keeping in view the forthcoming Olympics] did not matter. There were so many young Indian players with so much talent who played in this tournament that I felt the future of Hockey is bright.
That the league was a huge admin and financial success means a lot for the players who were treated so shabbily hither to. It is high time this happened to Indian hockey and the money and fame will surely lure our school children away from Cricket to this wonderful game.