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Tamil Nadu Hockey Players Book
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Excerpts from 'Tamil Nadu Hockey Players' Last Chapter (9/1/2011)
--K. Arumugam

We don’t know much about Chandrasekhar, but he is the first player from Tamil Nadu seemed to have traveled about 3000 kms for a hockey match. He was member of the erstwhile Madras and Southern Maratha Railways hockey team – forerunner of present days Southern Railways -- that went to Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1935 to figure in the second Inter-Railways Championship. In those colonial times, the Railways team used to have British or Anglo-Indians almost 100 percent. Therefore, Chandrasekhar must be an extra-ordinary talent to be in the company of ‘masters’. We deserve to know more about such stars, many of whose life and times are still unknown to us. This was due to want of genuine efforts from right quarters. To put it short, Tamil Nadu hockey, just like Indian hockey, needs at least some basic scientific research to bring heroes to homes and media, to evaluate its true history and weigh its real time contribution to the making of modern India.

When Indian hockey entered the sphere of international competitive hockey in the late 1920s, the representative national teams made it a routine to visit Tamil Nadu. Those times, the majestic Madras Presidency (State of Tamil Nadu) not only extended warm welcome and hospitality off the grounds, but its representative teams offered quality rivalry on the grounds. Old newspapers speak volume about near misses and hits by the native heroes, about huge turn out on the stands, organizers’ tariff advertisements appearing on major dailies.

Till the late 70s, the gates were not free for any hockey match whether league or internationals. When Chennai hosted the South Asian Federation Games in 1995, it was the only for hockey for which ticketing mechanism need to be put in place while for all other sports the public walked in freely to stadiums, and free of ticketing. Still, when India played Pakistan, there was double the crowd thronging outside the gates than what the stadium had already taken in. Same was true when the same city hosted Rane Frank Gold Cup in 1975 and then Champions Trophies twice.

In 60s and 70s when the countries of the world chose India to experience hockey, Tamil Nadu was one of the priority destinations for them. International or exhibition matches were organized regularly not only in the capital city of Chennai, but also in other hockey centres like Palayankottai, Madurai, Thenkasi, Didigul and Trichy. Every visiting team returned with happy memories and the unmistakable imprint they had was the crowd’s knowledge of the game.

It was therefore not surprising the state produced a wonderful galaxy of stars, organizers and patrons. Chandrasekar down to Veerasamy Raja, the state produced an array of excellent players virtually from every religion and across strata of otherwise stratified society.

The moment one talks about goalkeeping in the Indian history, Ranganathan Francis’ name crops up. This great tradition then was kept up by the likes of Munir Sait, Charles Huggins, Charles Cornelius and Leslie Fernandes. Nainakannu, Nigel Richtor, MP Murugesh down to Muthuselvan we had an excellent, lion-hearted defenders.

Midfield is the one area that the Tamil Nadu players almost monopolized in different spells of Indian hockey history. P. Krishnamurthy in his time was irreplaceable for right-half position, so was the case with V. Baskaran in the difficult area of left-half. Md. Riaz in the 90s was a great centre-half, as was Attatullah Khan in the 60s, Rajasekaran in the 70s.

Tamil Nadu’s forwarline is all the more impressive. Jabbar Badsha, Victor John Philips down to Marichamy Senthil and their ilk dominated the right wing. Vadivelu John Peter at inside-right is the all time great, next only to KD Singh Babu. Rangadoss down to Veerasamy Raja form the greatest left-wing forwards. I. Susainathan is the all time great inside-left. Contemporary star Adam Sinclair symbolizes the spearhead legacy where one cannot forget the role of V. Prabhakaran, CR Kumar and others before them.

You take any position any time of the last 80 years of Tamil Nadu hockey, you have a star there for every position, if not many. This mirrors the depth of talent in the state with space and time. Tamil stars were in the medal winning teams of all the Olympic and World Cups that India played in the post-Independent era. No doubt therefore the State team often gave good fight to every visiting national and international teams, contributed to the over all excellence of Indian hockey.

The state has so far produced 12 Olympians and eight World Cuppers while six of them have won national sporting excellence award, Arjuna. The state has in all produced about 40 internationals out of which half a dozen are national icons. In the 70s, almost one third of the National Championship winning teams are from the State.

Tamil Nadu organized various national and international hockey meets with efficiency, and for that we had great organizing brains in the likes of Dr. Subborayan, Dr. MAM Ramasamy, Dayakishen, Dr. Simon, Munir Sait and K. Jothikumaran, to name a few. Chennai Hockey League is one of the oldest, biggest and longest in our country. Tamil Nadu hosted the prestigious Senior National Championships nine times, maximum for any State. This State still possesses one of the best State teams in the Nationals and its performance therein is second only to Punjab State. Tamil Nadu gave India the idea of Chief Minister Cup, which is catching the imagination of other States now. Tamil Nadu also gave Indian Hockey Federation a President (MAM Ramasamy) and a Secretary General (K. Jothikumaran). In Chennai’s Md. Ghouse we have a pioneering Asian umpire. Some of the hockey writers from the state like S. Thyagarajan of ‘The Hindu’, are the world’s best. A Tamilian K. Arumugam is a globally known hockey chronicler and his site is in the Limca Book of Records (2010) for innovating and introducing the Live Text Commentary of hockey matches in India.

The region can thus take justified pride in its hockey and its prime movers. No one rests on laurels and the wheels of progress need to keep on moving. In order to further improve the game in the region, it has to ask some questions for itself.

Is our legacy enough? Or do we want more? If we want more, we have to further ask ourselves. Have we produced number of players which commensurate the state’s potential? Do we organize enough events? Do we organize events in all cities, or at least wherever hockey is popular? Does hockey flourish equally in all districts? Do schools and colleges have hockey grounds, if available, how many of them seriously take it to hockey? Or does TN hockey depend on government and its various arms alone to raise and groom budding talents? Do the budding stars get enough employment avenues? Answers to these questions are not straightforward yes or no, but if we find adequate answers it will lead to hockey revolution in the State.

If one leaves Punjab, Tamil Nadu is the only State where hockey is popular in most of its regions. It has more players than most hockey conscious state except Punjab. However, it produces less players than Karnataka, Orissa, Punjab, Bombay and the rest. Our share on Olympians and Arjuna Awards is far less than the actual potential. If one leaves out central pool like Indian Railways (Southern Railway and Rail Coach Factory), only a couple of banks (Indian Bank and Indian Overseas Bank) has potential hockey teams now. Even the traditionally strong ICF team has stagnated over the years. Competitive edge the State transport, Police and other civil departments provided over the ages has stopped. The culture of private clubs is almost not there, as was the case with the rest of India. Quantity and quality of schools and colleges teams do not show any upward tendency. They are in fact on decline. Surprisingly, women hockey has not taken deep root in the state, which is a blemish considering the fact that women found equal status in social life right from Sangam age.

For a state like Tamil Nadu whose hockey history is both colourful and enchanting, the present status of hockey does not augur well. The State deserves to have more institutional teams, more academies, more domestic tournaments, more media focus, more and more fans on the stands.

Instead of everyone pointing out others for the shortfalls, it is imperative every hockey enthusiast comes forward to contribute to the development of hockey. Every former and present national and international players should, for instance, adopt a school, college or Club, train and promote hockey there. These small drops can make a ocean. Only from quantity, the quality comes. Government, public and private organizations should raise more teams, the State Hockey Associations and Clubs should work hand in hand to innovate and execute events. Tamil Nadu deserves a vibrant hockey sport on its soils. This is achievable with collective effort.

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Good Summary
by Ijaz Chauhdry on 9/15/2011 10:42:34 PM
The above is a wonderful summary of Tamil Nadu hockey encapsulating all the aspects in a very beautiful style.