The above portraits are of some of India’s greatest Hockey players of yesteryears (L to R): Dhyan Chand, Leslie Claudius, Balbir Singh Sr., Ajit Pal Singh, Udham Singh, K.D. Singh Babu, Mohammed Shahid, Dhanraj Pillay and Gagan Ajit Singh.
It was a pleasure watching on TV the inaugural ‘Hockey World Cup 2010’ match between India and arch-rival Pakistan at New Delhi on 28th February. For those at the stadium it was an extraordinary experience full of excitement and happiness. India’s 4-1 victory was a very impressive performance. The Indian team’s game plan, moves, aggression, energy levels were at their best. This gave rise to great hopes that the World Cup would be India’s and even otherwise it would secure the second or third place in this tournament.
This victory gave rise to lot of news and discussions. It reminded us of the glorious period of Indian Hockey, when it won SIX straight OLYMPIC GOLD medals between 1928 and 1956. During this period India won all the 24 matches it played at the Olympics, scoring 178 goals and conceding only 7 goals! What a great record, an impossible one to break. Subsequent to such brilliant performance over so many years India could win only two more Olympic gold medals in the next 50 years, one at Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and the other at Moscow Olympics of 1980.
Though Hockey is the National Game of India, it is the most neglected game. No attempt is made to make it as popular as it was in the past. Especially in Andhra Pradesh I hardly see it being played by children or youth. In my childhood we used to play every game, hockey, foot ball, cricket, volley ball, tennis, shuttle-badminton, and table tennis regularly and more so when inspired by any national or local teams playing any of these games around that time. These days, right from the time a child begins to talk, education becomes top priority and the only game taught is Cricket. A person who does not have knowledge of Cricket in India is a dunce and when it comes to the National game, I think 95 percent of the population do not know the field positions or even the names of past or present great players. It is the duty of the authorities to encourage such an ancient and great game at every level in the country. They have to organize regular tournaments at school, district and state level to rekindle interest in the game and make it popular once again. In this manner great many players would be born and the best among them will represent us to bring honor to the country and make us proud of our national game.
Coming back to the ongoing World Cup matches, India after winning over Pakistan lost the 2nd, 3rd and 4th matches it played against Australia, Spain and England. And today it played its 5th match with South Africa and this has ended in a draw. This unfortunate situation puts us in a position to take the 7th or 8th rank in this tournament.