|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, November 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
again nursery of hockey
quartet parcel out the spoils
India’s triumphant march to the Junior World Cup Hockey title in Australia raises the pertinent question of the role of the national electronic media. Where was it and why did it not think it fit to cover an event in which India had such high stakes? India were the runner-up team of the last edition of the competition held in England in 1997 and had every reason to hope of doing well in Hobart (Australia) too. Whereas clips of some matches of the competition in Milton Keynes was available four years ago and a number of viewers were lucky to see them, this time there was absolutely nothing.
There has been criticism of the absence of the national electronic media on the scene but so far no worthwhile explanation has been forthcoming from the government. Unfortunately for followers of hockey and India’s fortunes in it, there was nothing from either ESPN or Star Sports, the two channels most popular with Indian viewers.
There is something drastically wrong with the approach of the national electronic media. It seems to be so preoccupied with cricket that it has no time for other disciplines. One could have understood its love affair with cricket if the Indian team had given reasons for the publicity with some good performances. But India hardly ever performs well in international cricket. Yet the focus is always on this one game. Nothing wrong with that policy if the other games too were given some footage, not on the same scale as cricket but certainly some time and space. They would be happy with the left overs.
The Indian Hockey Federation must be wondering where it has gone wrong or failed to come up with the goods. Its junior teams have done exceptionally well but the performances hardly gets noticed, sometimes even in the print media. With the exception of one newspaper with headquarters in Chennai, which covered the inaugural Asian Junior Hockey Tournament in Ipoh (Malaysia) in detail the others hardly paid much attention, waking up only at the late stages. But then that is not anyone’s fault. It has become a national pasttime to debate only on cricketing affairs. Other games just don’t matter.
The time has now come to wake up Doordarshan to the realities of other disciplines in the country. Agreed that it costs money to organise full-time coverage of all international events in which India is involved but some sort of co-ordinated effort between the federations and Doordarshan could help solve the issue. The IHF and Doordarshan for instance could have joined hands to hire a private party to cover the competition at Hobart and send the films to Delhi to be used the same day or the day after. The federations do not have the type of money required for such coverage but the government can help. The other way for Doordarshan was to authorise the IHF to organise coverage through private parties and foot the bill.
Private parties hiring to film matches
is nothing new. One remembers the time in the 70s when TV had yet to
make an appearance. Taj Club of Iran which won the DCM Football Trophy
in Delhi for three years running used to come armed with its own team of
cameramen and film the whole match to show it on the screen to the
followers in Iran. And the Japanese used to make it a practice to
capture on video every match its hockey team played in India during the
Test series. Always apt students, the Japanese used to study the replays
and tried to analyse the strength and weaknesses of both the Indian and
their own teams in an effort to improve their game.
nursery of hockey
Thanks to mushrooming sports academies, Punjab is once again becoming the nursery of hockey, India’s national game that in recent years has become a poor cousin to cricket.
Nine of the players in the Indian team that thrashed Argentina 6-1 in Australia last month to win the junior World Cup hockey title for the first time were from the northern state where sports has been a way of life.
The squad included crack forward Gagan Ajit Singh — whose father Ajit, uncle Harmeek and cousin Navsher have also represented India — penalty corner expert Jugraj Singh and Deepak Thakur, the highest scorer in Australia — all of whom have expanded Punjab’s rich hockey lineage.
Sports watchers are confident most of them would end up representing the Indian national side soon.
A large number of private and government-backed hockey academies that have mushroomed all over Punjab are largely responsible for producing these talented and versatile youngsters.
These include the Surjit Hockey Academy, Ramesh Academy and the Punjab and Sind Bank (PSB) Academy, all located in Jalandhar. The Sports School in Punjab is another centre for grooming talent.
Then there is the Sports Authority of India’s centre of excellence in Patiala, where the mercurial Deepak Thakur learnt his initial lessons from coach Inderjit Singh Gill.
One of the well-established hockey schools is the PSB Academy, where Ajit Pal Singh, captain of India’s 1975 World Cup winning team, and known coaches are involved in selecting and training boys aged between 15 and 18 years.
Apart from these private academies, good facilities are available at Sainik School at Kapurthala and there is a modern hockey stadium in Chandigarh, where locals polish their skill on astro-turf.
However, much of the credit for Punjab’s hockey renaissance goes to Mr K.P.S. Gill, president of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) who, as the Punjab police chief, played a key role in wiping out terrorism in 1993.
Since he took over the reins of IHF in the early 1990s, most national camps have been held in Punjab and modern facilities have been provided at places where hockey is almost a passion — like in Jalandhar, Patiala and Chandigarh.
"The basic reason for Punjab’s resurgence is that the people have hockey in their blood," said IHF secretary K. Jothikumaran. "The boys are naturally gifted and they get encouragement to take up the game when they watch well-known players in action."
Indeed, Punjab has a glorious history of having produced world-renowned Olympians like the two Balbir Singhs, Surjit Singh, Udham Singh, Ajit Pal Singh and Pargat Singh.
"Basically Punjab has a hockey culture, which is not found anywhere else in India," said Shiv Kumar Verma of the Nehru Hockey Society. "In addition, the Punjab Government has done a lot for the game, by way of infrastructure and incentives." There is another hockey school, the Thapar Academy, at Sansarpur — a unique village near Jalandhar that has produced 14 Olympians. They include Udham Singh, Ajit Pal Singh, Jagjit Singh and Balbir Singh Kullar.
India still have poor rehabilitation facilities, due to which sportspersons prefer to go abroad for treatment of various injuries, according to Dr Anant Joshi of Mumbai, leading sports medicine expert who was in Panchkula recently. Dr Joshi is well known in sports circles and his expertise is acknowledged by top sports stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Mahesh Bhupathi (tennis), Abhin Shyam Gupta (badminton), Sidharth Jain (badminton) among others.
Dr Joshi said injuries relating to the knee and shoulder were generally ignored in the past but now with more awareness about cure more and more sportspersons were coming forward for treatment. A recent example is of ace badminton player Gopichand who was operated upon 10 years back, but only this year was crowned with the prestigious All-England despite a cartilage injury.
According to Dr Joshi, injuries could vary but correct diagnosis was important for any knee injury. Wrong diagnosis of even a minor knee injury can mar a sportsperson’s career. He cited the example of various touts, who prescribe wrong medicines and thus sabotage the careers of sportspersons. When player approaches a sports medicine specialist, the cure becomes all the more difficult.
When a player indulges in hard physical conditioning, injuries are a natural outcome. Knee injuries were earlier common in soccer, kabaddi, and judo but now even games like badminton, table-tennis, tennis, and squash were hit by injuries.
Dr Joshi advised players playing on hard and synthetic surfaces to limit their practice on such courts, since regular practice on these courts could expose them to more danger and in some cases even a minor injury could aggravate, thus jeopardising their careers.
He said tennis in India was mostly
played on synthetic courts whereas earlier options like grass, clay and
cemented courts existed. Dr Joshi is of the opinion that tennis players
should practice on grass, clay and synthetic surfaces which will reduce
chances of injury.
US quartet parcel out the spoils
America reigned supreme in a topsy-turvy year for women’s tennis as Swiss miss Martina Hingis became caught up in a maelstrom of poor form and injury, allowing Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams to carve up the cake for themselves.
Hingis surrendered the world number one slot which she had held for 134 weeks in total since first holding it in 1997 and for the first time since May, 2000.
It was the inevitable consequence of a year where Hingis failed to land a Grand Slam title and her barren run in majors stretches back all the way to the Australian Open of last year.
The grand slam losing streak was largely Capriati’s responsibility as the rejuvenated American beat her in the final in Melbourne and then again in the French Open semis.
The youngest ever semi-finalist in Grand Slam history at 14 when she made the last four at Roland Garros in 1990, Capriati has had to fight back from the depths of "teenage burnout" years which almost finished her career.
Hingis and company were unperturbed as Capriati lost a second-round match in her first tournament of the year at Sydney to Lisa Raymond.
But days later at the Australian Open Capriati began to raise eyebrows as she handed triple champion Monica Seles a rare loss in the quarter-finals.
A semi-final win over second seed Lindsay Davenport followed and suddenly Capriati was in comeback kid territory, through to her first Grand Slam final.
Meaner, tougher — and infinitely more worldly-wise than a decade earlier — Capriati strode out to meet Hingis in the final. And won 6-4 6-3.
Three months on at Charleston, Hingis was scratching her head again after another final defeat to Capriati — but figured revenge would be hers at Roland Garros.
It wasn’t to be, as Capriati won their semi-final, again 6-4 6-3 and topped that with the title, triumphing 12-10 in the final set against gutsy Belgian Kim Clijsters.
To cap a dreadful year for Hingis she retired in the Filderstadt semi-finals with an ankle injury which required surgery and the top ranking fell into Capriati’s lap mid-October.
But within two weeks Capriati, the comeback story of the year — even of all time — had lost that prize.
Her semi-final loss to Sandrine Testud of France at the season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Munich allowed the consistent Davenport to take the year-end top ranking for the second time after 1998 — by just a handful of ranking points.
"There is more to life than being number one. I have to set myself new challenges," said Capriati, nursing a fever which struck inopportunely in Munich.
In a further twist to end a year of huge intrigue, Davenport then finished empty-handed in terms of major silverware as a recurrence of the knee injury which had ravaged her summer cost her Mmunich glory, Serena Williams the beneficiary.
Amongst all the sub-plots Serena and sister Venus were the biggest after Capriati’s cataclysmic return to form — but they could both have topped the bill and reduced their rival to the level of supporting act had they played more often.
Venus plodded through the opening half of the year but arrived at Wimbledon with a title to defend.
She pulled it off as Hingis slumped out early before Capriati lost a semi-final thriller with Belgian starlet Justine Henin.
Henin duly succumbed in the final and Venus then snatched the US Open for good measure at Serena’s expense after her little sister had sent Henin, Davenport and Hingis packing.
The final was the second time ever — and first since 1884 — that sisters had met in a Slam final.
Although she took a pot shot at her rival for withdrawing late from Munich citing a wrist injury Davenport, who managed to pick off a tour-leading seven titles but no majors, said Venus’ efforts made her the real number one.
"Venus would definitely be number one had she played more — but she hasn’t," said Davenport.
Three cheers for hockey colts
Three cheers for the Indian junior hockey team for lifting the World Cup beating Argentina 6-1 in the final. Earlier, they beat tough sides like Holland and Germany. The performance of the team has been outstanding. In 1952 at the Helsinki Olympics, the Indian team won the gold medal beating Holland in the final by an identical margin. At Helsinki the Indian senior team was led by hockey wizard KD Singh Babu and included stalwarts like Balbir Singh, Udham Singh, Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt and RS Gentle. The junior team’s victory will provide the much-needed boost to Indian hockey. My only regret is that there was no live telecast of the Junior World Cup matches.
Heartiest congratulations to coach Rajinder Singh, skipper Gagan Ajit Singh, and his team-mates for the historic hockey triumph in the junior World Cup hockey at Hobart. Our team performed superbly and the forward line played brilliant hockey. The Centre must award special prizes to each member of the team, including the coaches.
IQBAL SINGH SAROYA
It is a matter of great satisfaction that our boys have done the country proud by winning the junior World Cup. The nation is grateful to the hockey team and its coaches for bringing this honour. Mr KPS Gill and other administrators in the IHF, also deserve commendations. The Centre must recognise the achievement of the young players and announce liberal incentives.
Deepak Thakur played a vital role in India’s triumph at Hobart. But he must not get carried away by flattering statements being made about him like comparing him to Dhian Chand or saying that he can be a replacement for Dhan Raj Pillay. Such praise should not enter his ego.
Congratulations to members of the junior hockey team who made history by clinching the junior World Cup. In the tournament their performance was excellent. These were the moments all Indians had been waiting for since the past many years.
DEVI BHUSHAN SHARMA
The junior hockey team has surprised the nation by lifting the World Cup. It proves that there is no dearth of talent in our country. The fault lies with those managing various sports bodies. The authorities concerned indulge in favouritism at the time of selection in various games. Moreover, if a sportsman rises and brings glory to his nation on his own, he goes unrewarded.