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India hosted the 2010 Hero Honda World Cup of Field Hockey and conveyed a message Dil Main Dum Bhar Lo Phir Dildo Hockey Ko. At that time, field hockey attracted media attention. A few moments before the match on February 28, 2010, Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium was full of spectators and personalities. It was a crucial match in the history of the sport since it was the inaugural match of this World Cup. Second, it was a game between India and Pakistan between teams that used to be field hockey superpowers. India won that match 4-1 from that day on, and it seemed to be the start of the new era of Indian Hockey.

But no sooner than March 2, 2010. India lost to Australia by a margin of 2-5. This trend of losing continued with Spain, England, and South Africa. The Indian Hockey Federation has received considerable criticism.

Hockey may be a popular sport on the field, but youth usually plays field hockey worldwide. It is also the national game of India and played with a hockey stick and a ball. Indian Hockey was recognized as a World Championship in 1928. They also won six gold medals in a row at the Olympic Games. We can look at 1928 through 1956 as the golden age of Indian Hockey. Intelligent field hockey players have proudly been brought to the state because they have recognized the magic of hockey-playing well and have won the hearts of all. Field hockey has become popular in many countries such as Pakistan, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, and Australia, among others. There is a lot of competition around the world.


History and Origin of Field Hockey
Hockey Practice During Old Times

We have been playing field hockey in India for a long time. The origin of field hockey is unknown. Therefore, it had been called Khido Khundi since the 16th or 17th century in Punjab. Khido means ball and Khundi means curved wood stick composed of branches of trees, unlike hockey stick. There was no deadline, so the end was to push the ball into the other corner line. The existence of this game is assumed 1200 years before the traditional Olympic Games. Field hockey has deep Indian roots among smart players. Sadly, deep roots have become fragile because of the absence of talented hockey players and vital facilities.

India’s main field hockey club was established in Calcutta between 1885 and 1886. Gradually, this game has spread internationally and won fame worldwide. Later, managing the game and make the rules official lead to the formation of the London Hockey Association. Afterwards, in 1925, the International Hockey Federation (IFH) and the International Women’s Hockey Federation were formed. The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was founded on 7 November 1925 in Gwalior. In 1928, the Indian Hockey team became the first non-European member of IFH. The National Hockey Championship has been organized by the IHF annually since 1944. The All Indian Women’s Hockey Federation has been in existence since 1947. Indian hockey team competed at the inaugural World Cup in Barcelona, finishing third in 1971. India won the 1975 Hockey World Cup at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.


Indian Hockey & Its Importance

Hockey was the most significant sport since Indian Hockey was the world champion for several years. Hence, it was also nominated as the National Games of India. In India, Hockey declares two teams such as the Men’s National Team and the Women’s National Team. In 1928, the Indian Hockey team participated for the first time in the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Indian Hockey was the first non-European world champion to win the trophy. After this year, the Indian Hockey team continued its World Championships until 1956. 

Indian Hockey also obtained to its credit the largest margin of victory during a pool match (India 24 – USA 1 in the 1932 Olympics). Consequently, the largest number of consecutive wins (30 victories on the trot from 1928 to 1960). The Indian hockey team became the first Indian sports team to set foot in Australia/New Zealand (1926), Europe (1928), and Japan/USA (1932).

In 1932, the Indian team was also the primary Indian sports team to practice round the world tour. They played matches in Colombo, Malaya, Tokyo, Omaha, Philadelphia, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, before coming back triumphantly on the shores of India. Sansarpur, a small village on the outskirts of Jalandhar in Punjab. It has the excellence of manufacturing 9 Olympians like Gurmit Singh (1932), Udham Singh (1952,1956,1960,1964), Gurudev Singh (1956), Darshan Singh (1964), Jagjit Singh (1964,1968), Balbir Singh – ServicesBalbir Singh – Punjab and Tarsem Singh (1968), Ajitpal Singh (1968,1972,1976) – the World Cup-Winning Captain.

Dhanraj Pillay was also a popular and prominent player in Indian Hockey. He was also the skipper of the Indian team, who won the Arjuna Award for Hockey.


The National Game of India?

However, the sport has not been officially proclaimed as the National Game of India. It came about because of the golden age of Indian Hockey at the National Games. During this period, Indian hockey players performed extravagantly. Thus their continued victories and incredible potential have become the justification for naming this game as the Indian national game. In their golden years, Indian hockey players competed vigorously at all 24 Olympics. Surprisingly, we have won every field hockey game with 178 goals. We also won gold medals at the Olympic Games of Tokyo (1964) and Moscow (1980). At the Olympic Games, Indian Hockey won the championship on a maximum of eight occasions.


We all know that until the mid-1970s, hockey was a game of mud and grass. The 1976 Montréal Olympic Games were the first games where AstroTurf was applied in hockey. For the first time, the Indian Hockey team did not take home any trophies. The Indian Hockey Federation should have opposed it, either through collision or apathy, but it did not. Now all the Olympics are played on AstroTurf.

Indian Hockey could never manage to adapt to AstroTurf and lost considerable ground there. AstroTurf was smooth in comparison with the uneven surface of the grass that suited Europeans. Although, the introduction of AstroTurf led to strength and endurance becoming more important than the artistic stick work that had been effective on natural grass. Indian players were not so familiar with AstroTurf. Naturally, the Europeans and the money-rich countries found it very convenient to drop the AstroTurf and train their players. However, the Indians found it very difficult to adapt to AstroTurf. That’s why Australia and Germany dominated this game after the 1980s. As they had very high endurance and sprint skills.


The Autumn Stage of Indian Hockey
Indian Hockey Team at 1980 Olympics

I am a huge fan of Indian Hockey, and it still hurts once you consider the fall of your favourite sports. We do not want to watch a 20-minute game, but a soccer game (70 minutes), but we continue to watch a five-day tuck-tuck game. In recent years, both men’s and women’s teams have performed well in Indian Hockey. However, conditions were worse, especially from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. There are a variety of reasons Indian Hockey has been knocked out of the perch, and its Indian Hockey community accepts to require the blame for its downfall.


Everybody aspires to tie to a winner, and no one likes a loser. Television began to enter Indian homes in the 1970s, and the 7-1 defeat in the Asian Games finals that also took on Pakistan had a profound impact when satellite television was almost available. Therefore, the radio age has come to an end, but let me remind you that Indian Hockey won the 1975 World Cup of Hockey. Moreover, the Indian cricket team winning the 1983 World Cup helped them win a lot of hockey fans. Sports fans from India visited the Indian team lose to their arch-rivals Pakistan. India’s cricket team beat the Caribbean to win the World Cup. Naturally, fans were more inclined to cricket, and the regular performances diverted hockey fans. Therefore the younger generation of cricket.

There is a trail with us that we see cricket players, remembering the records and accomplishments of cricket players, but not trying to go with the Indian hockey stars. Nevertheless, there are no statistics appropriate for our hockey players. Yet, according to modern FIH statistics, Sohail Abbas has a record of the highest total of 348 goals. However, Ancient hockey suggests it had been Dhyan Chand who scored 400 goals throughout his career. Cricket has money, fame, glamour, and a vote to Bollywood and ads what is all we would like.

Indian Hockey won its first Olympic medal in 1928, and this trend continued until 1980 when it won eight gold medals. There have been no hockey medals since 1980. Cricket made its name and reputation at this time, especially in the subcontinent.  In 2008, we did not qualify for the Olympic Games, and in 2012 we finished at 12.  But why did Indian Hockey’s winning chart show a steadily declining feature?


The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has amended the rules and made AstroTurf mandatory. At the same time, the Indian Hockey Federation had only a handful of AstroTurf, and the Indian Hockey Federation had struggled with laying and building synthetic turf. As a result, youth who wanted to adjust to hockey as their future did not have adequate infrastructure. They have no option rather than to play on natural grassy grounds.

“While the rest of the planet introduced the players to AstroTurf at the age of 5, hockey players in India play on AstroTurf for the primary time at the age of 19 or 20 and find it hard to adapt.”

During an interview, the former hockey skipper, Sardar Singh stated it


Lack of Equipment in India

Let us get at grass root levels. Not many folks had played hockey in our childhood, but we want to play cricket for many hours. Let us recall the facts. Playing cricket only needs a bat and a ball with about 20 m cricket pitch (here pitch refers to the street outside our house). Although in hockey, firstly we would like a minimum of 10 players, 5 on both sides with hockey in each and everyone’s hand, a ball and a fully-fledged kit for a goalkeeper. The previous may cost us almost 400 INR or less. Although, the latter cost multiple times more plus a really large field. It is hardly possible in such a dense country like ours.


Indian Hockey encompasses a weak defence and deteriorating performance at the international level against top nation’s teams like Belgium, Australia, Netherlands, Germany cannot be neglected. Our problem is that the trapping of man to man defence is lacking. We are lacking teamwork, coordination, and therefore the fire to achieve a victory.


Limited Pockets in India

Give the Indians map to Indian people and require them to mark the place where you discover hockey players. The place which can possess most of the markings is Punjab. India has very limited pockets of hockey (Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, and Odisha) and not many players come from other regions of India. Hockey has failed to create an impression within the South or Eastern states like Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Karnataka. Therefore, the only major amount of Legends like Dhanraj Pillay or Sreejesh are the exception. Most of them attend North Indian like Dhyan ChandBalbir Singh, Sr, Udham Singh Kular, Ajitpal Singh, Prithipal Singh, KD Singh Babu, Mohammad Shahid. 

Now compared to Cricket, we’ll find Diversity like Rahul Dravid, KL Rahul from South India, and Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni from East India. There’s an immense talent within the country, but the talent isn’t tapped properly. Investing in scouting systems will surely help Indian Hockey, which is currently running out of alternatives.


It does not affect issues related to Indian hockey. At this place, there has always been a rift between the players from northern India and southern India. There have only been a few examples in the past where North and South Indian players have had cordial relations with each other. Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Dhillon are the most notable examples. Dhanraj and Baljit were excellent players. However, they never passed alongside one another. They are invariably hostile, and on occasions, they even came to blows. Northern Indian coaches preferred northern Indian players, while southern Indian coaches preferred southern Indian players. 


Indian Hockey: Governance

Who does not understand what is going on between Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation? The rivalry between these two federations had created much hype in the political and media arenas, but this turmoil had affected Indian hockey. Most of the time, the officials were busy with trials, and consequently, the Indian team did not turn too much for the international series. I know once that the IHF did not have sufficient funds for the players’ salaries. The longstanding battle of power between two parallel bodies. The conflict of ego between Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation. 

The Indian Hockey Federation and Hockey India is the primary reason for the disappearance of hockey in India. Beyond that, the leadership structure was not well structured. The greatest culprit in the decline of hockey in India was the policy of the hockey board, particularly KPS Gill, which treated the Indian Hockey Federation as its private company. KPS Gill made many bad decisions as firing half the team after winning the 1998 Asia Games. KPS Gill dismissed a much better player simply because he wore glasses (KPS Gill called him blind) and thus the coach’s revolving door.


I have never been a disciple of coaching camps. I consider that training camps are a waste of your time. Therefore the Indian team only focused on training camps and didn’t play enough games. While the rest of the world was focused on leagues to enhance their players. Indian players only trained within the camps and ran intent on playing matches. Belgium’s squad in 2011 was in 13th position in FIH rankings while Indian Hockey was in 12. In 2015, India was in 7th place while Belgium was World No. 2 as a result of the straightforward reason for playing in international leagues. Their players regularly play in the European Hockey League (EHL) the toughest league in the world) aside from their national league. While Indian Hockey players only play in HIL for a month and have no foreign exposure.


Indian Hockey: Role Models

We all know the names Kapil Dev, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Sachin Tendulkar. But few people know Dhyan Chand and Prithipal Singh, the legends of Indian Hockey. He made the whole hockey world his fan together with his best accomplishment. Other players like him like Roop Singh, Balbir Singh Sr, Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt were role models for the propagation of this era. They inspired a replacement and a next-generation to pick hockey sticks.

However, after the 1980s, the Indian Hockey Federation developed just a few class hockey players like Dhanraj Pillay is one of them. Unfortunately, there are no players today who could inspire a young Indian generation to play hockey. However, we know nothing about the Indian hockey team. It’s often where our national sport is, which is not officially a national sport. While we do not acknowledge our legends, Canada does. Yes, you read it right. The government of Canada recognized Balbir Singh senior.


No Media Coverage and Sponsorship

Once Indian Hockey started losing its status and prestige at the international level media. People have also lost interest in hockey and the small achievements of Hockey teams’ were ignored. We always blame cricket for the fall of hockey as cricket has more glamour and less physical contact. Although, a 4-year-old kid can play it with a ball and bat. You cannot look to sponsor companies to offer ads every minute like in cricket after every over promotion. However, that’s not the correct thing to try and do. When the downfall of hockey started big houses who were the first supporter and sponsors of the sport had stepped back.

Even the one-time Indian squad was fighting to urge sponsors for international tournaments. If the conditions for the national team were this then consider those players who were just getting into this game. Therein respect, Hockey is a smaller amount of money-making sport. During a game of 70 minutes, which works very intensively and sparingly fast sort of a bullet. There seems to be no time for breaks and advertisements which automatically end in the shortage of publicity and funds with the organization.

The media can divert sensitive minds, especially of Indian masses. Hardly any anchor is seen on news channels showing the termination of Indian Hockey and what’s usually shown may be a small controversy that is making big of a cricket player. Even on pages was having sports headlines within the newsprint. The images of the practice of cricket players are shown. In 2009, India won the Asia Cup, and what was shown on a subsequent day on the page. There was an enormous photograph of Gautam Gambhir, who scored a half-century.


The abolishment of the Offside rule from hockey added to the woes of Indian Hockey. The offside rule prevented the players from standing behind the opponent’s defence line before the pass was played. However, with the offside rule giving away. Hockey noticed the introduction of a bunch of long passes as strikers were allowed to remain high within the ground.


Indian Hockey: Current Scenario
Woman Hockey Team 2010

In 2013 Hockey India started a professional hockey tournament referred to as Hockey India League. Despite highly intense matches, it earned an honest response. Now it is time for the media to awaken to conserve and retain whatever is written within the history of this sport. The authorities of Indian Hockey are fractured by internecine rivalries and have little global clout. The corporate sector of India with an interest in future Olympic gold medals must lead the movement to revive natural turf together with two alternative playing surfaces of choice in future international hockey tournaments.

If we glance at the achievement of India within the Olympics, It reveals that Indian Hockey has the best medal count that’s 12 out of 28 total medals within the Olympics for India. Although Indian Hockey has won 8 out of 9 gold medals. Regrettably, we lost this beautiful game. But in any case these reasons the Indian Hockey remains respectable, our Women’s team has represented the country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after 36 years

The Men’s team knocked call at the quarter, though things today has changed tons, medal-winning performance in the 2014 Asian GamesHockey World League, and Hockey Champions Trophy has brought fans back within the game. The number of AstroTurf has also increased from 42 in 2007 to 137 in 2016. Besides, the present generation of players has gelled well with one another.


Not just within the Olympics, the Indian Hockey had shown a good show at International tours and other tournaments. All that they require is support from a fellow countryman. Indian Hockey is improving consistently and by the Tokyo Olympics, we’ll surely be medal contenders. Come again, let us express our love for this beautiful game. This is often a game that doesn’t require a single-man army, but what it needs is a tremendous team effort and behind it the crazy and energetic fans.

Long Live Indian Hockey!!!

Thanks for Reading!!!

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You should check out Kishin R. Wadhwaney’s book ‘Triumphs and Tragedies of Indian Hockey’ which expose the hidden secrets of Indian Hockey.

Composed By: Abhay Ghanghas