Just like a tiger has only been reduced to a national animal for name sake and it’s the cow that has become the symbol of nationalism in India same is the state of Hockey in India. If we are not told about it, we might not even realise that Hockey is the national game of India for it might seem to be cricket otherwise for obvious reasons. We can name a plethora of cricketers in India but let us try naming five players of the ‘national game’, can we?
Most of us cannot and this only shows how we have forgotten to remember our national game. Yes, hockey is the ‘National Game’ of India! What comes to your mind on reading this title? We’re sure it doesn’t form a very positive image about the national game of India, which is deteriorating day by day.
Have you ever wondered what the cause of this deterioration is?
Is it the quality of players or it is something else?
Let’s explore the basics first. It all began in 1928 Olympics, when India bagged a gold, thanks to venerable players such as Sir Dhyan Chand. This was the beginning of an era. For India, there was no looking back after this. Gold after gold poured in and India’s national game became the talk of the town, something that was talked about in each and every corner of the world. But then sadly this seems a story of a forgotten past and was never to be visited again, not in the 21st Century at least!
Then came the 1960 Olympics, this year marked the downfall of the Indian team, when it was defeated by Pakistan. The once invincible team now face enormous defeats and dwindling victories. What went wrong between 1928 and 1960? If we look at the present day scenario, we’ll realise that the situation is even worse! Considering that it is our national game, the government should make all efforts to restore the game to its prototypical glory, then why are we still plummeting?
The basic reason for us as Indians was the compulsion to play on the synthetic surface. Till 1970’s, hockey was played on grass and natural field, however, the International Hockey Federation made it compulsory to be played on synthetic astroturf! Now, is it difficult to afford the construction and practice on synthetic astroturf and therefore is leading to a lack of practice for Indian players? What should we expect then? A spellbound performance! Of course not! It goes without saying that this way, the performance is bound to deteriorate on an International level, where the Indian team is faced by well-rehearsed western countries!
Due to this reason and much more, people have started losing interest in the national game of India. Other sports such as cricket and badminton have been glorified. Players, investors, as well as the spectators, are drawn by the lucrative business that cricket offers. As a result of this, out hardworking hockey players are being neglected and not getting the due credit they deserve. Yes, leagues like the IPL have now become a feature of hockey too. In 2013 the Hockey India started with the Hockey India League on the lines of IPL and had 5 teams then and at present, it has 6 teams. Even though the objective was admirable but still it has not yielded the expected results in terms of making Hockey a keen sport again since every sport in India feels overcast to the glamour of cricket. While IPL involves a mammoth money game the Hockey India League is not even a close match. Despite attempts of restructuring hockey as a sport in India hockey continues to be a forgotten national game succumbing to injuries of ignorance day by day. It would be legit if the government might want to repeal the tag of the ‘national game’ from this sport. The present scenario is so disappointing that we have not won the Hockey World Cup since 1975. This is not just because the support for hockey has died but also that the training and preparation have become even below sub-standards. Our arch rival Pakistan has bagged the world cup 4 times!
There definitely a lot to improve, however, there has to be an initiator. The government and the Indian hockey stakeholders like Hockey Indian have a huge role to play in it! Maybe a new concept of hockey (that is played on the natural ground) could be popularised. Maybe the government could make more efforts to support the team and provide them better facilities! Maybe this way our national game could be restored its original supremacy! There needs to be a ‘Chak De India’ brought to real life from reel to make Hockey stand up from the ventilator it lies on.