Pargat aggrieved at the current state of affairs

Pargat Singh.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

Vijay Lokapally

CHANDIGARH: That picture from the Esanda Hockey International in 1985 is vivid in memory.

Pargat Singh, 20 years of age and oozing with confidence, checks an attack and launches a breathtaking counter. He begins the move from just outside his own circle and majestically moves into the German territory with a stunning display of speed and skill. The audience is enthralled and the opposition dazed as Pargat finishes the run with a fascinating goal.

It triggers an Indian revival as his team rises from a 1-5 margin to draw the game with Joaquim Carvalho, the current National coach, slotting the equaliser— the whistle for the goal coinciding with the one to signal the end of the match, a classic in every term.

Very privileged

"I remember that match well. Those were great days. Hockey was a delight and we were a great side too. Society held hockey players in high esteem and it was a matter of pride to represent the nation. I was very privileged," recalled Pargat, one of the all-time greats, when The Hindu caught up with him.

He was a dreaded defender and forwards from across the globe never shied from acknowledging his dominating presence in the Indian ranks.

Pargat is now accompanied by gun-totting guards and his vocation is to hunt for law-breakers and not mark the marauding forwards on a hockey field. But he cannot keep himself away from the game even though the administrators have no role for him.

Painful decline

Sporting a cap and donning a track-suit, Pargat hardly resembles the Superintendent of Police that he is. Presently on deputation to the State Sports Department as Director, the affable Pargat grieves the decline of Indian hockey and makes no effort to hide it.

"It pains me to see India struggling to even qualify for the Olympics. Sorry state of affairs but shockingly why are we all so helpless?" That is one mystery every hockey lover would love to unravel.

Pargat was at the Sector 42 Stadium here the other evening to watch some action in the ESPN Premier Hockey League. The sparse audience was an eyesore and the mundane stuff on the field a reminder of the falling standards.

Concerted effort needed

“Well, the players are trying their best but the effort has to be concerted. I have high regard for those who pursue this sport even when they know there is little to gain from it."

His views have always been strong and well-meaning with hockey at his heart.

"My love for hockey is deep and that’s one reason why I pray this generation supports this great game. I appeal to the administrators to change their attitude and the society to come and push this game in a big way."

Can tournaments like the PHL help? "They can. At least there is some competition for the players but then the format does not inspire much confidence. I would like to see a sense of loyalty among the players when they take the field. I know the foreign players are contributing their bit but there is something missing. Who are these guys playing for? It is based on the football league in England but then there is no mass support for this tournament."

Not critical of PHL

Pargat was not critical of the PHL. "I like the tournament a lot but then it should generate mass support for the teams. They should encourage the fans to become members of the team and then there should be some incentive for the players to excel in the PHL."

Elaborating, Pargat said, "Most players depend on jobs to survive and sadly the departments where they are employed don’t gain much from their players competing in PHL. There is little for the departments that support the players and if this system persists there would be no jobs for the players in the near future. If the concerned department does not benefit by having a player, why would it provide employment then?

I would love to see corporate houses or government departments adopting these teams and giving the players a greater sense of security. Hockey has to have big support from the sponsors."

Long way to go

Reflecting on India’s past glory, Pargat concluded, "Let us accept we have a long way to go but let us not give up our efforts. We need support from the society and I know we have the talent. We now need the will."

The kind that was exemplified in that glorious run 23 years ago when Pargat split the mighty German defence to come up with a dream goal.