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My Last Word
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My Last Word: Part II Hockey gave life to CWG (10/23/2010)
--K. Arumugam
My Last Word: Part II Hockey gave life to CWG

CWG is the biggest sport event held in India. Being the national game of India, hockey’s role in its success or failure needs a perspective analysis. Hockey hosted the World Cup, its biggest summit, superior one in terms of competition compared to CWG, six months ago. Hockey that time was in focus for all wrong reasons, players revolt, frequent postponing of hockey election, changing FIH deadlines thereto etc. Expectedly, the sport failed in front of capacity home crowd in the magnificent new stadium and it was in the fitness of things that preceded.

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This time around, hockey did not create any bad news in the run up, if one leaves out women’s team’s accusation of coach, a different matter we will dwell separately. The smooth run of men’s team in the run had its own impact.

Its over all performance was good, leading to first-ever medal in three CWG participations. More than the medal, what impressed even the die-hard hockey fans was is the response the event created in Delhi.

From the Day One the stands were full for hockey. It should not be surprise after what we saw almost in the World Cup. But why this response is significant is due to the fact that there have been lot of reports to the effect that ticketing hassles of CWG, with a result most stadiums are empty during the initial days of the games. These reports were mostly true, even now the ticketing failures are being probed.

If that is the case, how come the stands were full for hockey, even for India Scotland match? One plausible reason could be that the organizers expected full stands and got printed tickets accordingly. If that is so, hockey stood up to the expectations.

The other reason could be that tickets were easily available for those who book in advance. For example internet ticket booking should be done a week before the matches for easy courier or redemption. It looks many have done so. Which means the public enthusiasm seemed to be very high, and it happened in Delhi which otherwise is lukewarm to hockey is a great turn around.

After seeing full stands for most matches, now it looks the capacity of the stadium, about 17,000, is inadequate. Whatever way you look at it the public response for hockey helped CWG to acquire an image of itself in the beginning when everything seemed to run on wrong direction. Can we therefore say hockey rescued CWG in time, and one tends to think is an indicator the sport really played true its branding as National Game. A national game rescues a big national event, and it is great feeling.

When India defeated Pakistan and entered the semis, and when it led to front page coverage, many felt it is for the first time CWG came on front page for sport purposes. Its victory for hockey.

In fact, the hockey’s success, as much as the opening ceremony’s, contributed to the over all sporting success.

The presence of 70 percent stands for Women hockey final -- may be tickets were booked in advance hoping Indian women in the final -- and the passionate shrills and shouts it created among them really gave a feeling hockey is in the hearts of Indians. It is really surprising such a passionate big crowds that hockey manages to elicit during the multi-sports events such as this. This speaks volume of the appeal of hockey in India.

If you purely look at sporting point of view, our hockey seems staggered. It has to go miles before becoming a force of at least what it was ten years ago. India Pak match is always an emotional one, we can’t measure India’s progress based on this match, though it is the much sought after one, and failure here would have sent fans hung heads in shame.

India played rusty games against Malaysia and Scotland not to speak of Australia. The first half against England in the semis was a great treat despite a goal being conceded at the stroke of lemon time. The fight back was brilliant after 1-3 down, but why do we all of a sudden struggle to beat even England whom we have been fairly overcoming in the recent past? We even led 4-0 against England in the Boom Champions Challenge, where we won them twice.

Prime Minister of India chose to witness only one sport, one match in the entire fortnight the CWG was held. This honour came to hockey, but see what we have done? We produced worst ever international defeat. The same crowd that came four hours before the final, and stood at least one and half hours in the queque to see off the security, melted midway through the match. The final was played with hardly one third crowd.

All the goodwill and significance it created went up in smoke on 13th. The team’s failure is a technical matter. Those selectors, coaches, administrators and virtually no one can escape scrutiny.

So, if hockey can bring crowd on its own, it need not be a guaranteed one. The no shows as in the final can send hockey back to back waters.

This is the question the country should ask for itself even though hockey as a sport stood atop for almost ten days during the CWG.

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