Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Forgotten Playground

Hockey may be our National game but hardly a handful know much about it. I didn't either until I sat and researched on the topic for a presentation at office as part of a development program. Thanks to Mr.V for his initiative :)

In an age where county matches in England get better coverage, when birthdays of 'star' cricketers' are days of reckoning, when the 12th man's fracture of his little pinky gets 'Top Story' status, it is but normal if the kid next door thinks Dhyan Chand had something to do with Chandamama comics. The truth is most of us don't know and don't care who Dhyan Chand was, to correct the little kid.

This post is not a history lecture on the origin of Hockey. You can google for all those trivia. This is just small walk down memory lane to see if there is any justification for our indifference to this sport. When one reminisces about Indian hockey, one can only talk about the Golden Era - 1928 to 1956 when we won the Olympic Gold consecutively for 6 years. It's a record that is likely to stand through the ages. But who cares if we won gold in our Olympic Games debut?

The dream run came to an end in the 1960 Rome Olympics final which we lost to Pakistan 0-1. Some say the magic came to an end when astro-turf was introduced. But the Indian team still came back to win the Olympic Gold in Tokyo(1964) and Moscow(1980).

The Indian Hockey team set records of many sorts during their dream run. The 1928 Olympics saw no goal scored against them. 1928, 1932,1936 -- 3 Golds and only 3 goals conceded, Richard James Allen was the goalkeeper of these 3 Olympics. In the 1932 LA Olympics, India beat USA 24-1.

How did USA score that one goal?
The backs had decided to let the Americans have a run, but when they looked behind, there was no goalkeeper. The Indian goalkeeper Richard Allen was signing autographs behind the goal post!

Like an awestruck Dutch journalist wrote :
The Indian ball seems ignorant of the laws of gravity. One of these tanned diabolical jugglers stares at the ball intently; it gets upright and remains suspended in the air. It only proceeds on its way when a player has bestowed a nod on approval on it.

May 26, 1928 -- The Amsterdam Games marked the debut of a Lance Naik from the Indian Army. The incomparable 'Hockey Wizard' Dhyan Chand Singh. Of the 29 goals stored in Amsterdam, 14 were by him. He belonged to an era of Hockey greats yet he stood taller amongst them all. Dhyan Chand scored over a thousand goals in a career spanning 1926 - 1948. Dhyan Chand is to hockey what Bradman is to cricket and Pele is to soccer.

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, India beat Germany 8-1. Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand's wizardry that he offered to elevate Dhyan Chand's status to a Colonel if he migrated to Germany. He turned down the offer.

The ultimate tribute was paid to him by a sports club in Vienna, which built a Statue of Dhyan Chand with four hands and four sticks. According to them, no ordinary man with two hands and one stick could have played so well. Every age produces its own genius. But the only hockey wizard of the 20th Century has been Major Dhyan Chand, the king among centre-forwards.

Yes, Dhyan Chand's birthday 29th August is celebrated as National Sports Day but damn it! I didn't know that until I read it in wikipedia. Most achievers and their achievements are relegated to the Trivia Hall of Fame; just another statistic that would help us score in a quiz or a GK test paper in school. Nothing more and nothing less.

For all his brilliance on the field, he died an ordinary man without a hefty bank balance. If this is the way we treat our Star players, we have no bloody right to complain about anyone not performing in the international arena.

Need more? Read this article on Dhyan Chand.
Autobiography of Balbir Singh(Senior)

There are more victims of neglect in our country than there are recognised pillars of achievements. The Indian Hockey Federation, like any other body in our country, thrives on favoritism and petty politics. When ego clashes are the norm of the day who has time for legends, be it Dhyan Chand, Babu, Surjit Singh or Dhanraj Pillay?

You don't believe me? Take the case of Rajiv Mishra, another sad tale.

The saddest twsit is we still don't care. When million activities take up our time and attention, we can't be bothered with legends and their fight for survival. No Sire! I can't. I have better fish to cook. Maybe we'll change, when one of us achieves something and not a soul turns up to applaud.

Till then, we can take refuge in nostalgic trips, squinting through the cobwebs to take a glance at precious gems.


Blogger pagala'k' said...

good to see you back in business

4:57 AM  
Blogger Vidhya Rajesh said...

Where are you now? india? nashua? still working ?? for the same company?

1:25 PM  
Blogger Supremus said...

Beautifully recounted - Yes, hockey is a forgotten game in India. And to think, its our national game.

Actually until the public gets out of their "ooh look! dhoni cut his hair" phenomena, they will never look upon to other sports.

And then, except cricketers, other sportsmen hardly get anything...


1:27 PM  
Blogger scipio said...

Yeah... it's so sad...
Cricket is such a parasite. It has simply gobbled up all the other sports., but cricket was not that much of a craze before the 83 world cup.
So who knows? A good dream run once again may revive this sport.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Rohit said...

Comon guys...i don understand this whole 'cricket has gobbled up all other sports'... its you and me - people like us - who have accorded cricket the status it enjoys today... believe in free market man... people make their choices and thats the end of story - period. hockey has lost its glory because we just can't produce a team half as good as the ones that won olympic golds & all... and mu dear fellas...! don tell me - u wud blame BCCI, a sachin tendulkar, or cricket loving public for that - rather than the stupid IHF - whats the stat on # of coach changes in the last ten years - absolutely ridiculous selection policies n all... hockey has only itself to blame... cricket's got nothing to do with it...NO...!

4:39 PM  
Blogger shub said...

nicely done Kumari :) I'm feeling all homesick now...missing my Dad who used to fill me in on all this kinda stuff :(

8:29 PM  
Blogger scipio said...

@Rohit - You are probably right in some ways, but tell me something...
Do you watch women's cricket? The girls are doing just as well as the men. How often do you

Do you turn on DD sports and hope that some shooting tournament is going on? In all likelihood some Indians are in the finals...

The fact remains that Cricket has overshadowed other sports in this country to such a degree that it receives an unfair percentage of patronage.

What are the reasons for this? I dunno...

I sometimes feel that the popularity of cricket has got something to do with the fact that the game peaked parallel with the burst of TV into Indian homes.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Ducking Giraffe said...

am just happy to see u back!! also thanxx for the info on Dhyan Chand ..i didnt know either

2:58 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

there you are....couldn't be happier.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Rohit said...

@scipio: my point is simple - its a free market (lets call it the market for public's time and attention) and various forms of entertainment are fighting for the share of the pie - which also means that cricket (okkay - lets call it men's international cricket, to be specific) is fighting not just with other sports but also with the saas bahu sagas and myriad other things... i do agree that cricket does enjoy some kind of a monopolistic position here - maybe we should just see it as natural monopoly and leave it that that - or the only other way to dismantle such strong monopoly is strong positive government intervention...

10:20 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@Kumar, Dee, M(TSU): Am extremely glad to be back too :)

@Vidhya: Will mail you soon :)

@Supremus: Thank you :)I agree hope it happens sooner than later.

@Scipio: Hmm cricket is not a parasite. I guess we just fell in love with that game and forgot the existence of other sports. And thanks :)

@Shub:Thanks and all the best on the job hunt :)

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Green said...

I love Hockey. I can trade cricket world cup final match in which India is playing with Asian games league Hockey of India anyday.

It's only we don't have quality hockey games these days and few Indians are servile idol(cricket) worshippers.

11:39 AM  
Blogger pagala'k' said...

Hey Rohith,

I just have one counter argument to make,

Yes we have accorded cricket the status that it currently enjoys and as you pointed out its a free market. So advertisers, sponsors and the media have naturally followed people's mandate. Cricket has been over shadowing other sports and they don't get enough sound byte/air time which has slowly erased these games from our memory. It could probably wipe out these games completely and Cricket will eventually be the only sport being played in the country (I am playing devil's advocate here, things may not be as serious as I seem to portray). So kids in the years to come will never get an opportunity to play hockey or tennikoit for that matter which is grossly unfair. The generations to come might have even thought hockey to be more appealing than cricket.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Rohit said...

@pagala'k', first of all I am Rohit without the 'h' (that was one sentence I spoke almost 2-3 times a day on an average when I was in Bangalore for a few months!)

& second of all, I think your argument is a little too stretched... i do agree that we are finding it tough to produce quality players in sports other than cricket - just an odd paes, bhupathi, sania, kartikeyan, here and there... my point is cricket's not to blame... each sport has to take care of itself... if that means a player like bhupathi stepping up and setting a foundation to train kids, so be it... blaming cricket is an EXCUSE and a very easy one at that! the motorolas and LGs and samsungs can't blame nokia for their poor mkt shares in India... they will make a fool out of themselves...!

11:25 PM  

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