Batting for Hockey
It’s pure wizardry with the stick. The ball rolls over it… to the right, to the left and again to the right in rapid succession as the player make lightning advancement towards the scoring post. The great “Indian Dribble” is at once a menacing deception to the opponent, a mesmerizing rally to the spellbound spectators and a powerful technique which, when unleashed, yielded a rich harvest of goals. Introduced by the Indians way back in the 50s, it changed the way hockey would ever be played and catapulted the nation as the undisputed champions of the game. Today, a mastery on the technique of the “Indian Dribble” is a definite pre-requisite for a player to be of any consequence in the game.
Come circa 2010, the great Indian hockey is at shambles and the rot is gender natural. The men and women of our national teams, instead of dribbling the ball, are now wrestling with the officials. With spates of accusations, unpaid monies, drastic resignations and boycotts, our hockey has everything to keep the masses entertained – off the field, that is. An inspiring film that injects passion to the game, though a commercial success, did little to change the mindset of men who matter. Once a national pride, the sport today is being strangulated and is gasping for breath. And when the symbol of national honour is at stake, are we to remain just mute spectators?
Many argue that the decadence of hockey coincided with the rise and the rise of The Cricket. The sport of the willow attracts all the sponsorships, monies, media coverage and ads while its players enjoy celebratory status. The nation lives on a daily dose of cricketing news and the T20 format ensures a round the year action that leaves little room for any other sport to capture our imagination. With an overload of critics, commanders, analysts and many other sundry “thinkers of the game”, it never fails to engage. A testimony to this is the media coverage on the exclusion of Pakistani cricketers from IPL which could perhaps only be compared to that of the 26/11 terrorist attack.
It is this very popularity of cricket that could now come to the rescue of hockey and salvage the game from total oblivion. If only the czars of the game displayed wisdom and magnanimity, the issues of financial crunch that plague our hockey could be effectively resolved. Yeah, hockey need to be cross-subsidised by cricket. And we, as a nation, have always lived with cross-subsidies- we pay, for instance, more for our petrol so that the cooking gas is available cheap and companies support their weaker products by piggy-backing them with their strong brethrens. If it works well for our economy, shouldn’t it work better for our games? An hockey cess on every cricket match, on every telecast of cricket and a definite ear-marking of a portion of its profits for the development of hockey would breathe fresh life to it. Indian cricket today need to bat for the hockey.
Countries that have emerged as great sporting nations have done so only by a deliberate policy of synergizing their combined strengths to overcome their weaknesses. And it’s time now that India too leverage its commanding cricketing status to the advantage of other sports. With India hosting the World Hockey Cup this year, it’s just the right time to act towards this goal.
Chak De India, Chak De!
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