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Strange Tales Of Indian Cricket And Hockey

Updated: October 1, 2011 12:28 pm

It could not have been more glaring than this. On a day when MS Dhoni-led Indian cricketers lost the ODI series in England, after the fourth match ended in a tie at Lords, thousand of miles away Rajpal Singh-led hockey team defeated arch rivals Pakistan to win the first Asian Champions Trophy at Ordos, China. The ODI was being telecast live and other TV channels were keeping their viewers informed of what was happening at Lords but the hockey fans had no clue what was happening in Ordos. At the end India could not win at Lords and the experts had a field day on the TV channels. The match was dissected thoroughly with grim-faced angry experts predicting doom for Indian cricket if the BCCI did not listen to their advice.

All this happened while the hockey fans were desperate to know about the result in Ordos. Finally, their wait was over as TV channels announced that India had won but there were no details, while lengthy postmortem of the ODI continued. Even as most experts admitted that it was the worst-ever series for India and men in blue gave below par performance and said that cricket fans were very upset. In between, the news came that Hinduja Group Company Gulf Oil had signed on the Mahendra Singh Dhoni (MSD) as its Brand Ambassador for undisclosed sum while on the other hand it was reported that most of Indian hockey team players did not have proper shoes for the final.

Two days later, after the Lords match, Indian team did not attend the ICC’ s annual awards in London taking the sheen off the function. The ICC squarely laid the blame on BCCI for the Indian cricket team’s absence at the Annual Awards function, saying it’s a “shame” that the Indian players skipped the event. Its Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat insisted that they had informed the BCCI about the function much in advance. It is interesting to note that Lorgat’s boss is Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who is also the President of the ICC. And not very far from England, at Lausanne (Switzerland), International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced that it had shifted the Champions trophy from Delhi to Auckland.

While Lorgat was lambasting BCCI virtually in presence of Pawar, back in Delhi, FIH President Leandro Negre was thundering that Champions Trophy would not be returned to New Delhi and also issued another dictate to Indian officials—either form a single Hockey Federation or Olympic qualifier would also be taken away from the capital. Negre made these observations after a meeting with Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken, sports officials, and Hockey India office-bearers.

It is common knowledge that BCCI is virtually bankrolling the international cricket and FIH never had it as good as they held the men’s World Cup in New Delhi last year. Never before Hockey World Cup got so many sponsors and attracted such a huge number of eyeballs for hockey matches on the TV channels. But suddenly two national sports bodies—BCCI and HI—are under attack and attackers were well aware that no other country can get them so much money as India, but they wanted to show that their writ ran over Indian cricket and hockey administrators.

ICC is desperate to shed the impression that it is run by the BCCI and FIH wants to show that it can also run the tournaments without sponsors from India. It is no gainsay that ICC owes its present position and importance to the BCCI and to its former President Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya once told this writer that when he took over as president of the ICC, he was shocked to know that there were few hundred pounds in the accounts of this body which was responsible for the running the game in the world. Prior to Dalmiya, all the ICC meetings were held in London not every member attended it because of the financial constrains. Now the ICC members travel in business class and stay in five star hotels.

As far as FIH was concerned, all the World Cup championships it conducted, prior to New Delhi hardly had two or three big sponsors. In 2010 FIH World Cup had record number of sponsors with Indian automobile giant Hero Honda being its title sponsors. So impressed was FIH with the Indian response that it unilaterally decided to allot New Delhi the Champions Trophy (though India did not qualify for it) and Olympic Qualifier. It also announced that it would also host a World Cup for the Clubs (with champions club from top hockey-playing nations taking part in it) in India. That was in 2010.

But now the game is suffering because of the ego problems of the officials as was evident by the FIH’s announcement shifting the Champions Trophy to Auckland even before its chief Leandro Negre met Sports Minister Ajay Maken. Now, New Zealand, ranked number 7 in the world, will replace number 9 India in the Champions Trophy to be played from December 3 to 11. India has been extended an invitation to play as the top-seeded team at the Champions Challenge in November in South Africa. As if this was not enough, Negre issued another dictate to India after meeting the Sports Minister and IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Dictating terms as Indian sports officials failed to put up a united front, FIH warned that if a single federation was not formed in the country by the year end, New Delhi would also lose next year’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Maken admitted that once the Champions Trophy was allotted to New Zealand it was difficult for India to get it back. He, however, said that he was miffed with the FIH for announcing the alternate venue just hours before the meeting. He said: “The Champions Trophy has already been allotted to New Zealand and it is now a closed chapter. But I asked FIH President Leandro Negre why only four hours before the meeting they announced the name of the alternate venue. We never expected the Champions Trophy to come back but at least we expected them to take a decision after consultation with us.”

There ended India’s hope of hosting the Champions Trophy after its winning the First Asian Champions Trophy. While players were doing their best, a quarrelling group of officials cost India dearly. The loss of Champions Trophy is immense for the team, which desperately needed a high voltage competition before the qualifying tournament. It seems there is no silver lining for Indian hockey in near future despite players doing their best but all their good work is going waste because of the egoistic small-minded officials for whom self-interests are more important than country’s interests.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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