Beautiful Hockey

India has not qualified in Hockey for Beijing Olympics. And the media is spitting venom. “National Shame”, “Chuck Dey”, and more. This mediadolescenct self-righteous rage shows little wisdom. One newspaper carried a front-page a photograph of the players, where they stood, faces down, forlorn – like a bunch of fellows caught in some illegal act.

Why hang the players? 

Did the same team not beat Mexico in this tournament with a score of 18 goals to 1? Yes. That’s right…18 to 1. When was the last time we saw a score like that in Hockey? Perhaps during the times of the great Dhyan Chand. When India defeated USA 24 – 1 (1932 Olympics, Los Angeles).

And with thoughts like these and such, my mind goes back to some hockey memories. The brilliant Ashok Kumar, son of Dhyan Chand, blazing his way as outside-right, with a wand for a hockey stick. What a dashing dribbler he was. And Govinda, his centre-forward teammate. Zafar Iqbal the forward. Ajit Pal Singh, who one of the greatest centre-halfs the world has seen. Surjit Singh the back, and penalty corner scorer. Aslam Sher Khan, Mukhbain Singh, full backs. Balbir Singh…Shahid, the great Shahid…Dhanraj Pillai, Baskaran…Shankar Lakshman, the goal keeper…All great players.

And memories of legends before. The great Dhyan Chand, surely the Don Bradman of Hockey. The man who could score from anywhere, ten times out of ten chances. Roop Singh, of 1936 Berlin Olympics team – of whom it is said that the Germans named a street after him. And so many others.

Yes, India is a great field hockey team. Artistes on field. Dribble like magic. Dhyan chand has played barefoot! But the advent of artificial turf was perhaps a dampener to sub-continental hockey. Also, penalty corner goals became far more the rule, and India somehow has not been able to machine-master it like the Europeans. I would rather see a nice dribble, pass, scoop, push, and a field goal strike, than a penalty corner guillotine goal.

What say you? Hockey memories anybody?

5 Responses to “Beautiful Hockey”

  1. ramey Says:

    with such memories & you do not qualify for olympics…. it hurts….& leaves a big scar in the heart… let us not feel happy about the best times in the past But actually try & emulate in the present times as well…

    i remember buying the entry ticket for an hockey match using my bus fare & walking back home after the game….such was the craze….not to see the present state of the game in India now…

    this may not be true for hockey only…

  2. gkamesh Says:

    ramey

    point is ki haar jeet hoti hai. dont drag the players over coal. perform better next time by all means.

  3. bala Says:

    Kamesh,

    Brings back memories from the days I used to watch Nehru cup at the Shivaji Stadium. Indian airlines which boasted of Govinda, Ashok Kumar, Appiah, Kaliah, Ganesh (Ramey would remember this, he would go on about the radio commentary as they passed the ball to each other) in the early seventies. The other good teams were BSF and Punjab Police I believe.

    I think it all has to do with the perceived coolness of the sport. Parents want to make their kids into superstar cricketers or if they can afford it are chasing dreams of being tennis players and other more global and glamorous sports. It falls in the same category of other sports like athletics.

    Although I cant remember when was the last time they did well in Olympics or the World Cup, it is of significance that they have not even qualified for the Olymics for the first time ever….

  4. GJV Prasad Says:

    we havent done well for quite some time, since astro turf came into play. we still dont have more than a few grounds with artificial turf and the fact that we can still produce world-class players astounds me. we are still a great hockey playing nation but with a stuck in the mud administration.

  5. Srinivasa Says:

    Bala has got a point. Much depends on perceived coolness of the sport. Hockey was nurtured in the military cantonments of British India. That’s why the communities which contributed great numbers of hockey players were ones which had large numbers of its young men in the military. Anglo Indians, the Sikhs, the Coorgi’s, the tribals of Central India etc..

    Hockey (or for that matter, football) does not necessarily jell with the “don’t touchist” mindset of the bulk of the Indian middle classes which came up in a big way after Independence. Cricket however is a non contact sport and seems to be tailor made for these classes.

    In a similar vein, traditionally only string instruments (tantrivadya’s) were considered appropriate for these communities in classical Indian music. Flute and Nadaswaram, for example, were not.

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