Indian hockey fraternity is in a celebratory mood and understandably so. After all, defying all odds, the team managed to reclaim the bronze in the Hockey World League (HWL) Final. On the face of it, this was quite a credible comeback considering that the world’s crème de la crème was in Bhubaneswar parading their wares in the year-end spectacle.
Moreover, the host’s prospects were dented in the initial stages where it suffered ignominy against lowly opponents, qualitatively speaking. But then, in this hour of glory, rather than rest content, it is time the authorities at Hockey India (HI) go in for soul-searching besides working on the inherent loopholes that stood exposed, on a studious note.
This becomes necessary given the rankings that were released by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Tuesday. There have been no gains, whatsoever, as the men remained stagnant in the standings at No six, a spot they began the year with. The only cheer has come from the women, who began the year at No 12 and ended up two notches higher, thanks to the momentous Asia Cup icing on the cake.
In what has been a particularly turbulent year where in the administrators undertook dramatic steps with regard to coaches, there is a general perception that Hockey India has not been promoting the sport to the required extent. Things remain unchanged at the grass-root level even as the over-ambitious Narinder Batra (perhaps inspired by N Srinivasan) was promoting himself at the global level, including becoming President of FIH. His ‘elevation’ did not ring in any changes at the ground-level, much like Srinivasan and Shashank Manohar at ICC.
To add salt to the wounds, Batra had to beat a hasty retreat and apologise after supporting the black armband protest by Indian players’ whey they were pitted against Pakistan in the HWL semi finals on June 18. It was demeaning on the part of an FIH boss to make a political statement when the fact of the matter is that Pakistan is as much a member of the international body as India is.
The position’s integrity mandates that he should swear by neutrality. In the circumstances, his preposterous show of patriotism is rather uncalled for and unbecoming of a man occupying such an exalted post. Batra can indulge in such political gimmicks when he becomes the President of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that is almost certain to happen, sooner than later.
A tragic irony is that foreign coaches, who are paid millions, tend to spend more time on off-the-field comments and less on working on techniques of the boys. For instance, the Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne contends that for bolstering Asian supremacy, an India-Pakistan showdown is unnecessary! It is like saying cricket does not need an Ashes or either USA or Russia will be enough for the sustenance of Olympics! The likes of Batra and Marijne should understand that in professional sport diatribe and day-dreaming are meaningless, and more so if Indian hockey has to show a semblance of what it was-a much-feared opponent.