S. Thyagarajan

Chennai: Avid chroniclers will describe the nearly decade-and-a-half reign of K.P.S. Gill as a turbulent period in hockey administration. Since he captured the reins in a tumultuous election at Bhopal in 1994 every move had come under intense media scrutiny for dissection, debate and denigration.


That all should end in the way it did on Monday causes a momentary spell of anguish. To be fair, it must be acknowledged that few federations had shown such a sustained interest in formulating a workable and successful junior programme in all age groups as the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).

Nothing exemplified the efficacy of it than the triumph in the World Cup at Hobart in 2001. Then the success in several other continental age specific competitions has been remarkable.

Time was when three teams were playing in different tournaments at the same period.

All these tangible benefits were buried, and perhaps neutralised by various commissions and omissions that has forced the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to ensure a regime change. The evils that had caused enormous damage to IHF’s credibility were inconsistency in planning, lack of transparency and constitutional impropriety. The unparalleled shuffling of teams and coaches nauseated everyone.

In the dark

Even officials who were part of the administration complain that they were in the dark about the moves or decisions taken on major issues.

Progressively, homogeneity became the casualty, projecting a lack of understanding among senior functionaries. It was no secret that in recent months the relationship between the President and Secretary was strained.

As for transparency, less said the better.

Even the change of the selection committee after the Santiago disaster was news to many till the team was picked for the four-nation tournament.

The nationwide shock over the failure to make it to the Olympics for the first time in 80 years triggered a cataclysmic chain. This was the moment for the officials to sit and introspect. But that was not to be. The resignation drama under the media glare, the anti-FIH stance, and amateurish handling of Charlesworth’s appointment all sullied the image further. Eventually, the administration met its Waterloo in a sting operation.

This was hardly the time to enter into negotiations for tournaments, or sending teams abroad for competitions.

It is ironical, and even tragic, that the Indian Olympic Association, which stood behind IHF when there was a demand for the resignation of Gill in the wake of the Chilean trauma should now show the door under pressure not only from FIH but also from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Now that the deed is done, it is for IOA to steer clear of further conflicts and controversies.

The new selection committee under Aslam Sher Khan is Delhi-centric, save for the enigmatic Dhanraj Pillay, whose record in denting India’s image on and off the field is no exaggeration. The spat he had with the chief coach, Rajinder Singh (Sr) immediately after the Asia Cup triumph in 2003 is fresh in memory.

That he never got on well with coaches from Balkishen Singh, Cedric D’Souza, Rajinder Singh (Sr) to V. Baskaran at different points of time is well documented.

Nor did he get on well with the players. Ask Baljit Singh Dhillon. Now Adam Sinclair. That Dhanraj hails from the same place as the IOA chief is perhaps the deciding factor.

A mystery

Why good thinkers of the game like Ashish Ballal, Subbiah and Mukesh Kumar were not considered remains a mystery. However, at this point, nominating the selection panel is illogical with no tours programmed. Making a player of the stature of Ajitpal Singh to work under Aslam Sher Khan is an affront.

Whatever may be the compulsions to impose this exemplary punishment for the second time against a major sport only the negatives have been highlighted.

Interestingly, the FIH under the towering leadership then of Rene Frank stood solidly behind Mr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy when Raja Bhalindra Singh slapped similar sanctions in 1975. Today, sadly, the prompter is FIH.

While no tenure has been stipulated for the ad hoc committee, IOA must not delay the return of democracy to IHF. Without wasting time it should remove the cobwebs within the state units and prepare a genuine voters list.

The sooner IOA does this the better it is for the apex body to demonstrate its credentials as upholders of ethics in sport.

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