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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Revival of Indian hockey: Victory in Azlan Shah tournament

Sandeep Singh is the captain of Indian hockey team but till today he wasn't commonly recognised travelling in this country.

Though a cricket player who has represented India in just a single One Day International or T20 match gets stares & is mobbed everywhere.

But this might change at least for sometime from tomorrow as Sandeep's men have brought victory to India in its national game after a gap of 13 years, beating host Malaysia 3-1. The team won the Sultan Azlan Shah trophy by beating Malaysia in the finals [India defeated Pakistan 2-1 in the semi-final].

At last, the long drought has ended. And though it may seem wishful thinking to talk about the recovery of the lost glory of Indian hockey and its golden past, but this is certainly a major moment.

All of us have read the stories of the wizard Dhyan Chand, his brother Roop Singh and India's exploits in the Olympics in the past. Until 80s, we had a formidable side and hockey matches were still a crowd puller.

Millions kept transistors close to ears for 110 minutes during hockey tests. I still remember the days when India's Mohammed Shahid was termed as great a forward a Rick Charlesworth, Stephen Blotcher and Hasan Sardar.

Bhaskaran, Somayya, Carvalho and Mervyn Fernandez were no less heroes than cricketers in those times. Even until the days of Pargat Singh, hockey somehow retained its charm but repeated losses later on put off the fans who lost interest.

The decline in Doordarshan's reach in urban India was also a loss for the sport, as channels were not interested in showing hockey and news related to hocky.

In the good old days of DD, you had just one or two channels and sometime you had no option but to watch whatever they showed. Apart from Olympics, World Cup and the Champions Trophy, Azlan Shah remains an important tourney.

Even if it's height of optimism, I am loving this feeling that Indian hockey is back on track. Though there is no comparison with the popularity of cricket, hockey players seem all set to enjoy limelight for sometime.

The last few years were bad for Indian hockey. Anybody who loves hockey would like to forget the era when KPS Gill was president of Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). Hopefully the new dispensation will be different.

Everybody has seen the hardwork of players in the practice session and the coach Harendra Singh must get credit. With Asia Cup just a month from now (the IPL will also finish by then), hockey buffs are getting excited.

Photos: Indian team celebrate the win in Malaysia [Top left], a portrait of the legendary Dhyan Chand [left].