Hard work, practice, dedication and concentration are some of the basic tenets of any sport.
It took 13 years but the Indian women’s hockey team finally got their act together to win the Asia Cup in Kakamigahara, Japan, beating China 5-4 in a penalty shootout. They followed the basics and were richly rewarded.
In the bargain, they also qualified for the hockey World Cup next year. The most important aspect of this victory was the dominance displayed by the Indian girls throughout the tournament. Some of the recent performances by them had been indifferent and this sudden revival took everyone by surprise.
Thankfully, there were no expectations from the team and this probably helped the girls to play more freely. Before the tournament, there were lot of issues which came to the fore, among them a change of coach.
New coach Harendra Singh took over the reins just a month before the tournament. He has never coached a women’s team earlier and this made his task doubly difficult. But Singh, being a hard taskmaster, managed to get the girls to focus on their game. They also had the comfort of knowing that they had an Indian coach who they could communicate with.
For too long, the Indian hockey authorities had a penchant for foreign coaches where communication was always a major issue. The women team’s victory comes at a time when other sports are also stealing the limelight from cricket.
Sadly, the Indian women’s team was only granted one lakh rupees each for their outstanding performance.
This is absolute peanuts when compared to India’s cricketers, who rake in the crores. The Indians authorities have forgotten that the country was among the best teams in hockey for years. The meagre amount given to the girls just highlights the apathy shown towards hockey in particular.
It is sad to note that India’s goalkeeper Savita Punia, a veteran, is without a job. And she was a star performer for the Indians, particularly in the final. Others eke out a meagre living and have hardly any future after they retire. They are also treated very shabbily whenever they play domestic matches too.
They are herded like cattle and sometimes left to fend for themselves. The authorities must take notice of their plight. They must do something instead of brushing aside their achievements.
The Indian hockey federations do not have a good reputation from a long time. They are often alleged to resort to favouritism and bias. Good players have often been sidelined for players who have “influence”. There are hardly any competitive matches for the players to hone their skills.
If India has to achieve sporting glory on the world stage, then there has to be a drastic change of mindset. The federations must promote teams, and most importantly, the players. Women players start very early and their playing span end quickly too when they seek to sustain their lives with other jobs or just get married.
Like cricketers, these players also need jobs to secure their future. The government must draw out a plan for these women and also the men’s team instead of sending congratulatory messages. For a big country like ours, we hardly win anything on the world stage despite having potential.
Let our athletes, shooters, hockey players, shuttlers and golfers have their days in the sun. They too bring glory to this great country of ours.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.