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My Last Word
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My last word: Captaincy issue (2/19/2010)
--K. Arumugam
My last word: Captaincy issue

Indians teams voted last fortnight to select their captain. Prabhjot Singh was the unanimous choice of the team.

But he is not captain for 2010 World Cup. Hockey India’s choice Rajpal Singh is.

Team’s wish, its chief coach’s methodology and the experiments he has been courting in the last six months were, thus rendered useless.

Hockey India, lacking personalities to steer from the top the teams for success, fired from the shoulders of selectors to have its say stay put.

Selection Committee in India is a joke, if not tragedy.

In 1998 when Indian women got a chance to play in three major tournaments – Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Cup – Indian coaches then did exactly what Coach Brasa wanted to do it now.

They selected each senior to lead each major tournament. In the end of the novel process, the girls won Silver at the Asian Games after a gap of almost 16 years – and with it an Arjuna in 10 years.

One of the beneficiary of this rotational policy was none other than Sita Gossain, now known as Sita Mehta.

I don’t think this midfield marvel, now a selector, would have wanted ‘continuity’ given freedom to think. Or, she suffers from selective amnesia.

When Aslam Sher Khan was made the selection committee chairman last year, ‘senior’ Ajit Pal Singh staged a revolt of sort. Almost precious six months were lost before he could replace Aslam. This nasty fraternal war was a nauseating affair, utterly avoidable when other issues were there to be dealt with in the aftermath of KPS Gill’s sack.

I don’t think this gentleman would have wanted a ‘junior’ to lead the side. This view is given hoping he thinks before signing Hockey India papers.

One man whose view on the captaincy rocked – or shocked -- at least the media, came from ‘ready-for quote’ sports minister MS Gill.

He said many things on this issue, but it can be categorized under two points; selectors are people of wisdom and coach has no right to go for voting.

Selectors, as I mentioned early above, are iconic jokers and ready to support anybody who sits on the power-chair, whether it is Goti or Ghulati, Chatra or Batra. Therefore, I first salute Munir Sait who never bothered to be part of any of these selection nonsense.

With regard to voting methodology, I doubt the minister knows the history of hockey in this respect.

From 1928 to 1956, that is, as long as people of wisdom from the realms of Army, Imperial Civil Service and business were at the helm of IHF, voting was in practice to select both captain and vice-captain of the teams. I am not just talking about pre-Independence era, though this practice germinated in that glorious era.

KD Singh ‘Babu’ was voted as vice-captain for the 1948 Olympics after the senior most Kishen Lal was put at the helm unanimously.

Senior Babu and Junior Balbir Singh got equal votes in the race for the leadership of the 1952 Olympic team, and the Secretary of the then IHF Dr. AC Chatterjee cast his vote in favour of senior player and it was how Babu could lead us to fifth consecutive Olympic gold at Helsinki, and then went on to become the first Asian athlete to win the Helms Trophy.

After 1952 the decay started, coinciding exactly with a civil police taking over the reins of IHF. Despite all his other good qualities, Ashwini Kumar is the man who broke the system – and it was in sync with all those police people who succeeded him in IHF.

For Ashwi Kumar, alive and in his 90s, nobody other than Punjab player -- because he is from Punjab -- could lead the side! Only exception to this was Shankar Laxman and Leslie Claudius.

RS Gentle was team’s choice for 1956. But he won’t let official dictate terms.

Ashwini Kumar, on the other, had a penchant for interfering in team selection and enjoyed the privilege of posting the final eleven players before each match.

Balbir Senior was his choice for 1956 -- Balbir then was Ajit Pal Singh of old times. With this, the time tested system of voting has gone to the winds, so also the team’s fortunes.

After that only Chamchas were the first choice of the powers that be. You can easily trace the downfall hockey to captaincy issue, and it is for sure.

That’s why, for instance, four time World Cuppers Ashok Kumar or Dhanraj Pillay, never led World Cup teams! They never led Olympic teams as well.

The same happens now; Arjun Halappa, only player among the present lot to play his third World Cup, is not even in the race! Consitency and not cultivating media are his weaknesses!!

The point I wish to make here is, voting was not a bad idea, instead a healthy way of doing things. It is informal, in camera thing, and steers clear off off-field captain, the chief coach, from bias. As the whole process is informal and in camera, nothing to be won or lost among the players. (I will advise my readers to read a relevant chapter in the Ric Charlesworth's magnum opus 'The Coach, Managing for Success').

I don’t think neither the Minister nor the people who stray into power – not elected but selected by someone – know the history, and the reasons behind why we were winning then, and not now.

In terms of seniority and maturity World Cup should have been led, my first choice Arjun Halappa and then second choice, Prabhjot Singh. Very unfortunately, as it can happen only in our great country, neither of them ever led India, despite being the senior most in the teams for long time!

It is not birth right of a particular region to produce captains!

Captain is the team leader. How can a country make a mistake in the choice of a leader? Can a Brigadier take orders from soldier in the war fronts! Though technically both are patriots and fighting for their country.

This country put wrong people at the helm of IHF, we are paying for it. The same people make wrong choices. We are not going to gain. The team bears the burden, and the chamcha players go on to fill the history book as leaders – certainly not as achievers.

I don’t think India ever remembers the choices of Ashwini Kumar (Harmik Singh and all) but certainly Ashok Kumar, Dhanraj Pillay cherish the hearts of people even now.

It is wrong to say captain’s role is just for the 70 minutes on the turf. He leads the entire team in the whole of camp days, which runs into months in India.

Lastly, Ministers can build grand stadiums. National Federations can bid successfully thousands of tournaments for their country.

Please remember stadiums and tournaments cannot lead us to victories. If that is the case, not Germany but Malaysia should have been topping the FIH World Ranking.

Only coach and the team, led ably by a leader, can bring laurels. Lest, the world's best stadium need not necessarily give us the world's best moments.

Knowingly or unknowingly, Brasa did what our forefathers did, but ironically a former Chief Election Commissioner (MS Gill) doubts and dispel the proces.

The beneficiary of the whole issue is, Hockey India, which never want elections in the first place!

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captaincy issue
by Kamlesh Jain on 2/19/2010 1:49:35 PM
Absolutely new insights, hats off to the writer

by hodi r on 3/7/2010 2:27:25 PM
it does matter . Hockey captain is name sake as in football . coach is the real non playing captain . let us move on , and why bother with captain my dear editor