NEW DELHI: Any discussion on the present state of Indian hockey is bound to include mention of poor administration, lack of money in the sport and neglect of the sport at the grassroots-level and how cricket has attracted the attention of one and all.
It was no different when Olympians Zafar Iqbal, M.K. Kaushik, Jagbir Singh and Nandy Singh, along with commentator Jasdev Singh, spoke at a seminar organised at the Press Club of India, here on Thursday.
Ajitpal Singh, Ashok Kumar, Aslam Sher Khan and Dhanraj Pillai, who were part of the original panel, stayed away for various reasons.
The speakers maintained the often repeated “there is no dearth of hockey talent in the country” but failed to provide any concrete, long-term remedy.
Zafar was hopeful of the present day youngsters possessing the skill to meet the challenges on astro-turf. “I learnt hockey on natural grass and then played on astro-turf once it was introduced in 1976. So much has happened since then but somehow, barring a few success stories, we have not had much success since winning the 1980 Olympics, where, I agree, some of the leading countries were absent.
“We need to have new tournaments as well as revive some old ones like the Aga Khan Gold Cup, the Obaidullah Khan Gold Cup, Beighton Cup and give them prominence,” he suggested.
Kaushik spoke about the nation not respecting the heroes of the game.
“The decline has a lot to do with how we have treated our greats. In cricket, like hockey, we have won the World Cup only once, but look at the way the memories were revived by celebrating the 25th anniversary of that triumph. When there is no respect for those who’ve served the nation with distinction, how can you inspire the new generation to take up the game ahead of other disciplines.”
Jagbir remained optimistic of a change of fortunes by saying, “Indian hockey is wounded, not dead. We can bring back the lost glory provided we have a long-term plan.”
Nandy highlighted the fact that unless India starts winning, the game would remain deprived of the attention of the masses and the media.
“Kerry Packer could revolutionise one-day cricket because he had the resources. We have to bring in money into the game to make it an attractive career-option for the present-day youngsters. Today, parents are sending their children to cricket, tennis and golf. Hockey is no longer attractive because it doesn’t pay much.”
Jasdev lamented the poor financial state of some of the hockey heroes from yesteryears and wanted a fair deal for them.