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Big Bull's Worst Bully (7/7/2001)
SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2001

Recently, the IHF chief Mr. KPS Gill in an artilce in a major newspaper dwelt in length how the Indian hockey has gone through a sweeping revolution without the media taking note of it.

This story is counter to his claims

I am surprised, as much as amused, to read Mr.K.P.S. Gill's `Bully off, boys' (Guest Column, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 17th June) where he castigates every section- media, past IHF set up, players and his own state units - in his over-enthusiasm to trumpet his own. The piece, well constructed but ill-directed, not only harps on erroneous statistics and wrong notion but also paints a wrong picture of the past.

How on earth the very person in whose regime the middleman culture entered the Indian Hockey Federation (tehelka, are you aware?), declare decline of our hockey was due to `outright corruption in the past' ? On what basis, despite being the chief of the organization that spends a mere 1.3 percent of its turnover on players' incentive, conclude `players personal earnings improved significantly'? It's the IHF's unprofessionalism that drifted away many potential sponsors including Tatas and Saharas but he attributes this to the media orientation of producing `good copy'. Nothing can be further from truth when he observes, `a great deal of corporate funding simply evaporates in the heat of negative publicity'. Media has no avowed mission to paint any sport negatively, let alone hockey.

Mr. Gill's grouse is, the media has allowed `a sweeping, though gradual, revolution in Indian hockey' to go entirely unnoticed. While one can share his concern on media's fitful focus on hockey - this is sadly the reality - the revolution he talks about is not simply there; it's entirely his own illusion. His hidden message that everything in our hockey has improved over the past seven years - which meant since he took over the reins of the IHF - needs correction. None of the three reasons behind his argument - our teams are facing the Europeans on equal footing; there are four equally strong teams in each age group; and manifold increase in foreign exposure - can stand scrutiny. Let us see these one by one.

Only this year India lost a home series to Germany; and won only two out of the eight Tests against Malaysia and New Zealand, ranked many rungs below India. We have not beaten Netherlands in the last one decade, only once Australia, and never Germany in World Cup or the Olympics. We hardly qualify for the Champions Trophy which means we are not even in the company of the world's elite, not to speak of winning them. The reality is even teams like Belgium and South Africa rout us nowadays. Unless our success rate of penalty corner improves, Indian improving its performance will remain a pipedream.

World over, the development of sport revolved around the fulcrum of different age-group teams, but we developed our first under-16 team only last year and the second Under -18 team of his regime a few months ago. Whether this is an achievement or shame is a matter of conjecture. However, Mr. Gill can avail some comfort for this as Pakistan has none and not figured in the Sub-Junior and Under-18 Asia Cups, both India won recently. However, his declaration on the same breath that we have four equal teams in these age groups is stretching the things too far. If so, I would like to have those players and coaches name for inclusion in the next issue of hockey year book! True, there are more players at senior level than in the past but certainly not at the scale Mr. Gill claims.


SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2001


How without verifying the facts, Mr. Gill claims that in the past our national team struggled to get 3,4 matches abroad in any one year and players battled on into their late thirties, well beyond their natural potential and form? In its one year run up to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, for instance, Indians played in 43 matches. For a comparative period of 53 months, KPS Gill (June 1994 to December '98) arranged 121 international matches for the seniors against 114 by his predecessor R.N. Prasad (January 1990 to May '94). What is the great difference? That once in a blue moon two Indian teams happen to be on foreign tour at the same time does not amount to any revolution. It is just like inventing gem clip and claim industrial revolution.

At least in the past, the engagements were somewhat systematically phased unlike the present. For example, Indian played only three matches in whole of 1997, but 23 in the first four months of 1998. The exposure did not come when we needed most - in the run up to the last Olympics. Malaysia, Egypt and Russia turned down Indian invitation one by one. It's only in his regime players of 27, 28 years made their debut (Jude Menezes, Thirumalvalavan and others). The average age of the past and present teams nowhere narrowed down. Of course, one

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