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From Gold to Ash and Gold Again

The Indian Hockey Team's Steady Decline and a Possible Road to Recovery

Indian hockey team's performance was demoralizing
By Pradyut Hande

The Indian Hockey Team arrived at the London Olympics, 2012 with starry dreams in their eyes, hope in their hearts and expectations on their shoulders. After having failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008, the air was rife with anticipation and promise. Unfortunately as it transpired, all they lacked was belief in their abilities and intensity in their approach.

Under a new Coach in Aussie Michael Nobbs and a squad bristling with youthful exuberance and time tested experience in equal measure, the Indians were expected to put in a commanding performance at the Games. Having made drastic improvements on their once flagging fitness levels and embracing a more offensive style of play, India did possess the merits on paper to go the distance; albeit with a few welcome "shots" of fortune. The eight time Olympic champions had a chance at redeeming their lost glory on the grandest arenas of them all. However, the bitter realization of the fact that there is a veritable chasm between promise and performance, soon dawned upon many ardent supporters. What followed was a dismal campaign that clearly delineated our inability to compete with the best in the business. Not only did India finish last in the competition, but to add insult to injury, they finished without a single point; surrendering tamely in the face of immense pressure exerted by stronger opponents. What was most disconcerting to watch was the abysmal manner of the side's capitulation in the absence of any intensity, fight, hunger or pride. The lack of direction and a befuddled game plan was apparent as the Indians got walloped game after game. It was a tragic commentary on our National Sport that has clearly fallen prey to the unfortunate spiral of inconsistency and non performance over the years.

Barring the odd triumph in every fourth Tournament, India has struggled to come to grips with the evolving rigours of modern day Hockey. Once a proud leviathan of the sport, today India is a meek bystander as other nations continue to catapult ahead of us with each passing year. How have we managed to fall so far back behind? Have we done enough to arrest our alarming decline? What future course of action could we adopt to improve ourselves?

For starters, Indian Hockey has suffered greatly at the incompetent hands of "sports administrators". Their myopic policies, lethargic attitude bordering on apathy and lack of initiative coupled with "Kafkaesque red tapist mentality" has cost us dear. Additionally, the Government at large has done precious little to develop the sport and stem the rot. In the absence of adequate training facilities, infrastructure, equipment, mentorship and talent management; the game's development at the grassroots level has been severely compromised. This then subsequently manifests itself at the senior levels. The authorities ought to realize that talent if not prudently identified, carefully nurtured and suitably motivated is tantamount to squandering valuable resources.

Down and out?
There needs to be a major overhaul of the prevailing decadent system that continues to hamper the sport's evolution in the country. Promising players ought to be identified at an early age and provided with invaluable international exposure. Creation of state-of-the-art AstroTurf arenas and training facilities in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities ought to take precedence. There needs to be a calibrated road map at the national level in place that eschews the constant changing of Coaches and dubious selection decisions. Merit and performance ought to be the only barometers for selection. The players would also be better served if provided with the services of counselors and sports psychologists that would aid their mental and emotional development. These are a few critical areas which the concerned authorities ought to take cognizance of...and soon.

Despite our pathetic showing at the Olympics, on the bright side, we can only move forward and upward from here on. But if we are to regain even a modicum of our lost glory as a Hockey powerhouse, there remains a lot of work to be done. We have seen the writing on the wall and there is no sugarcoating the bitter truth. We are aware of the impediments hampering our progress. We know the plausible solutions to address our woes. The question now though is, "Can we act?"

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Pradyut Hande
The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen Debater, Munner, Quizzer, Painter and Amateur Freestyle Rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship


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