Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Phir Dil Do Hockey Ko

Phir Dil Do Hockey Ko...
The Hockey World Cup has got under-way. This is the message that Virender Sehwag, Rajyavardhan Rathore & Priyanka Chopra are giving to the country. The ad campaign is catchy and effective.
Hockey in India has acquired a somewhat mythological status. We have got enough Olympic gold medals (8 of them) to ensure bragging rights as probably the greatest hockey nation of all time. The team won six consecutive gold medals from 1928-1956 without being beaten even once. The exploits of these players are told as epic tales. Dhyanchand has been selected as the Indian sportsperson of the 20th century. But sadly that era is long gone. We failed to even qualify for a place at the Beijing Olympics. 
The decline has been steady. There have been a few false dawns in between. The Asiad gold in Bangkok, 1998; The near-miss in Sydney Olympics; a couple of Asian Championship wins but after that its all back downhill. The administration has bungled big time. The KPS Gill regime was removed and replaced by a temporary committee but there isn't much sign of improvement. Indian Hockey has been in news mainly for the wrong reasons in the past couple of decades. Even the players threatened to go on strike for not being paid. (Sounds similar to West Indies cricket story)
It is in this context the Hockey World Cup is being held in New Delhi. India took on arch-rivals Pakistan on the opening day. It was lovely to actually hear the national anthem sung by the large crowd present at the stadium. The crowd was loud and cheered on the Indian team as they destroyed Pakistan 4-1. Our media went over the board as they always do. Cash prizes were announced for the players. All this jingoism came crashing down in the next game as we lost to Australia 2-5. Now some people started asking for the rewards to be withdrawn. 
But what was most heartening to note was that people actually cared a bit for the tournament (I was asked the hockey score in office while working late during the Australia game). The tournament broadcasters reported TRPs way beyond even that of cricket matches. Just hoping this kind of support continues after the World Cup also regardless of the result.
After all Hockey is our national sport and  was the sport which brought India on to the global sporting map.
फिर दिल दो ह्वाकी को...

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