Sustain The Sports Upswing

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India had a Golden Weekend when three titles were clinched in hockey, badminton and golf.The triple joy was welcomed, as it pushed cricket out of the main pages of many publications and highlighted that there were others too who can bring glory to the country.

India became Asia Cup champions, Srikanth Kidambi won the Danish Open title and Gaganjeet Bhullar clinched the Macau Open golf tournament.

Rarely has India achieved such success on any given day. But there are signs that other sports are emerging from the shadow of cricket.

Badminton has been on the upswing since the last few years since the advent of Saina Nehwal, P V Sindhu and Kidambi, who have been influenced by former star player Pullela Gopichand.

The shuttlers have been winning on a regular basis in the Superseries and have Olympic medals too. Indians have been doing well in the Asian circuit and are on the path to higher things.

But the most interesting win among them all is in hockey. For too long, Indian hockey has been blowing hot, blowing cold. They win one tournament and fare miserably in the next. One win creates much euphoria and predictions but these get blown in the wind. There is total lack of consistency and selections from time immemorial. Coaches come and go, players are dropped for reasons which don’t wash.

There is confusion too. India’s golden days in hockey were based on a traditional style which was full of skill and wizardry. But times have changed. Today deft and speedy passes and opening up spaces. There is a precision which is essential to move forward.

The Indian team must adapt to this. Every game evolves and so has hockey.

India needs to shed the old traditions and embrace the new. The hockey system is also far too corrupt for a long time. There have been individuals there who let personal enmity take precedence over performance. Many good coaches and players end up sacked or in the cold storage despite performances to back them up.

Some of the justifications are laughable. This has led to a lot of insecurity among the players and coaches. Another problem India has to watch out for is lethargy. Resting on one’s laurels will hit a roadblock every time. No wonder the Indian hockey graph is full of more lows than highs.

Still, there is some hope with new coach Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne. He is a positive thinker and very focused on what he wants. There is also a good mix of youth and experience in the side. If the selectors do not think wayward, Indian hockey could just cross the line from erratic to certainty. There are big events, including the Olympics coming up.

We need hockey to fire up our sporting ambitions once again and have it jostle for place with cricket. Hockey was once the topmost sport in the country. It would be wonderful if those wonderful days in the sun return.

Babu Kalyanpur

Babu Kalyanpur, ( Consulting Editor) has rich experience in both sports and business journalism. Babu has led news desks in Pune and Bahrain and writes extensively on his passion, sports and business besides current affairs and matters of importance to Pune.

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