The Chaosnama called India hockey!

Suhrid Barua is a passionate sports journalist/blogger who is ‘madly in love with cricket,football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, badminton, and like to follow all sports’. He can be reached at twitter and his blog.

Suhrid Barua

Any defeat in sport creates an overwhelming sense of disappointment. But what would you do when a team finishes last in the men’s field hockey competition at the Olympics? Quite obviously, any association – which runs the sport – would realize that there is something seriously amiss with the sport in the country and that it needs a major overhaul coupled with intense soul-searching. And, accordingly, the association would undertake desired steps to repair the damage.

But Hockey India (HI) – the body who run hockey in India – prefers to be ‘refreshingly different’. In a country where emotions run high and scapegoats are easily found, HI hasn’t done anything over the last couple of months (since the July-August Olympics) to suggest that they are indeed serious about putting corrective measures in place.

Of course, HI do deserve praise for not at least crucifying chief coach Michael Nobbs after the London debacle – a common sight in Indian hockey for years. Other than that, there is nothing much that inspires confidence among hockey lovers.

HI has been extremely vocal about asking for individual reports from the Olympic squad; including the support staff to vindicate its stand that they are determined to set its house in order. It’s been more than two months now, and we are yet to hear anything concrete about the players and support staff’s take on our wooden spoon finish. The recent comments by HI that some of the players are yet to submit their reports only adds a touch of ridicule to the whole exercise.

One is not sure whether HI’s decision to appoint a High Performance Manager to whom Nobbs would report to was meant to silence all those who were crying for his head (or at least wanted Nobbs’ wings to be clipped) or was it a pure forward-looking move. I would remain positive about this rather than being cynical, thinking it is for the betterment of Indian hockey.

The biggest concern for Indian hockey is the amount of red tapism involved. Chief coach Michael Nobbs was nowhere to be seen during the recently-held Senior Nationals in Bengaluru. It is learnt that HI had favored the continuation of Nobbs and physio David John and wrote to Sports Authority of India (SAI), who then forwarded the same to the Sports Ministry for approval.

One is not sure if any unwanted delay on the part of the Sports Ministry (to extend their contracts) led to Nobbs giving the Nationals a miss. I thought Nobbs not being able to watch all the established as well as the untapped talents in action during the Senior Nationals was a humongous blunder.

The Senior Nationals would have given Nobbs a fair idea of all the existing talents across the country and Nobbs’ absence only indicates that accountability and transparency are missing somewhere.

Talking of the Senior Nationals, one failed to fathom how HI is doing its assessment report of the players, especially those who play in the rebel World Series Hockey (WSH) – many of whom turned out for their respective employers.

For instance, Arjun Halappa was named the best forward at the Senior Nationals, but his name was missing among the 48 probables for the first national camp since our calamitous London Olympics campaign.

The cloud of confusion brings into the focus the sustained turf war between HI and IHF. So much has been said about the need for both parties to bury their differences and come under one umbrella – that a discussion on this issue almost borders on boredom. 

I think the Sports Ministry would have to play a proactive role here and ensure the present state of affairs don’t persist for long as Indian hockey would be the biggest casualty and nobody else.

The announcement of the 48 probables left a surprise – the axing of Gurbax Singh – can anyone explain why suddenly he is not among the 48 best hockey players from India? If you are singling out Gurbax for the Olympics debacle, then, the same applies to many others who flopped badly in London.

In fact, the selectors’ decision to retain most of the London Olympians in the 48 probables does not reveal any intent that the ‘non-performers’ have no place in the squad.

Chief coach Michael Nobbs’ absence from the Senior Nationals did raise the hackles of hockey buffs, but can anyone own up responsibility as to why he was not present (along with (physio David John) in Patiala from day one of the national camp? One understands visas of Nobbs and John got delayed, which resulted in their non-presence at the national camp from day one. 

Surely, the people who run hockey could have avoided this and ensure the first camp after the disastrous Olympics campaign sends across the right message with the chief coach in charge of the camp proceedings.

Lets face it; with every passing day, the blanket of chaos only continues to envelope Indian hockey – not sure for how long!

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