The financial package announced by Hockey India to its constituent units deserves applause. It comes at a time when several of the State associations are in dire straits. Even regular activities like conducting the league and other tournaments suffer from want of resources and sponsors.
This pathetic state of affairs is partly due to the endless administrative imbroglio at the top. The problem persists, unfortunately, accentuating the decay of hockey in many nurseries. Against this grim scenario, the grant of Rs. three lakh each to the state units is happy tidings.
But, the state units are facing innumerable problems. Chief among them are litigation over administrative control and inadequate infrastructure. These lacunae will render the monitoring of assistance cumbersome and complex.
The idea governing the grant is praiseworthy. It directs the units to focus on the grass-roots, schools in particular. But to translate this into purposeful action requires committed administrators.
HI ought to go about this with the help of former coaches and players. Getting the schools involved within the jurisdiction of each state constitutes the first step. This needs efficient planning. The schools must be goaded to form teams under good coaches. The emphasis then should shift to inter-school age group competitions.
Further development can be streamlined to keep the talent discovered under constant watch. More than expending the financial grants, these programmes must be handled by devoted administrators and dedicated coaches.
The cash allowances promised for women and junior players also signal a refreshing approach. Again, success lies in paving the way for smooth handling of the payments. When will this exercise begin is moot point.
All this boils down to the importance of building a strong base. Unless the junior talent pool is substantial, efforts to fashioning the national team will be futile.
As it is, the junior talent base is shrinking what with the players coming under two different umbrellas. Lack of enumeration of the player base at this level makes any study on the issue meaningless.
The National junior team to the recent Asia Cup at Malacca entered the fray as the holder but returned with a bronze. A stronger squad could have been formulated but for the existence of two units at the top.
Some players like, for instance, Gurjinder Singh of Haryana, was kept out because of his association with WSH. A brilliant penalty corner hitter, Gurjinder might have turned the fortunes India's way.
Again, changing the coach midway has not helped. It is still unclear why Mukesh Kumar — who was doing solid work — was replaced with Baljit Singh Saini.
Such aberrations send confusing signals. They generate disaffection among coaches. All of them are willing to contribute their share to the growth at all levels.
The cash incentives no doubt come as a silver lining. But, indisputably, the administration needs to tie up several loose ends within a set time-frame. And that is the need of the hour.
Keywords: Hockey India