The National Game is all set to revive its pride. After all, India is still the best performing hockey team in the Olympics having won the Gold more than half a dozen times. We have to admit India won it before 1980 when the game’s standards were largely same across the globe, east and west. But in the past two decades, west has taken over at lightening speed with astro turfs and high-tech training. But Indian Hockey players still command the respect of being one among worlds best quality players with unparalleled technique.
I remember those days back when I played for the school team in sub-urban high school in coimbatore. I was a RightX (Shorter version for Right Extreme spot in the team play arrangement) and used to run less faster than others and was always the one to be blamed for those lost scoring oppurtunities.
Large percentage of Hockey teams in India still play the game in hard grounds (the most unprepared and unsafe version of the ground for any sport). When you get hurt on your knees and elbows and lips on these grounds, it gets really nasty. Only at the level of state teams, a player can expect to play in prepared grass turfs. And not until you play for the national teams ( there is National A, B and other divisions at All-India level ) you get a chance to feel the astro turf (The last I heard there were less than 5 astro grounds in the entire country). Of course, our country is not rich enough to have such grounds for every school, but unfortunately to our bad luck, almost every internation tourney is played in astro turf these days. In fact, our team should be appreciated for their world-class performances inspite of our infrastructure constraints.
The game itself is a joy to watch. It has only become more pleasure to watch in astro and with the teams like Australia, Germany playing such wonderful coordinated plays. Unfortunately this form of game is not so popular in US so we dont get to watch tournaments lately. (Btw, the term ‘Hockey’ refers to Ice Hockey in US and our regular Hockey is called ‘Field Hockey’!).
Lastly, I was reading about the Indian Hockey team’s training in Arizona for the Olympics. Indian hockey team in the Arizona, US. I was so excited to see the IHF(Indian Hockey Federation that governs the game and its players in India) has given them such a wonderful oppurtunity. We can also see that the enthusiasm and spirit of the players is high and they are working with nutriionists, sports phycologists, strength trainers and german coaches to take the spirit further up. With Dhanraj Pillay, one of the best hockey players in the recent past, back in the team, the team is roaring with confidence. Perhaps another Gold medal in the making.
With such a great team and history behind us, we have all the reason to dream for a Gold. Go for Gold, Indian Hockey.