back in hockey arena
Indian hockey’s resurgence
back in hockey arena
DISTINGUISHED by their spotless white turbans and playing uniform, Namdhari Vidyak Jatha will be back at Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi this month as a participant in the leading Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial International Hockey Tournament.
Namdharis, known for their unprecedented contribution in the freedom struggle, are also set to be the first private organization in the country to have their own Astro-Turf — synthetic playfield — at Bhaini Sahib, near Ludhiana, the sect’s headquarters.
The turf, imported from the Netherlands, will be available for training and holding competitions by the end of the next month. The work on laying the base has started. "The surface has already arrived," says Thakur Ude Singh, who looks after the hockey team of the sect.
Namdharis have made headlines since early 80s when they fielded their hockey team for the first time in various national level tournaments. Neat and unique turnout with players supporting white turbans even on the playfield were reasons enough to attract worldwide attention.
Besides their turnout, they had been giving an excellent account of themselves on playfield, toppling some of the top teams in major tournaments. Not only that, some of their players made it to the national team. Didar Singh, the team coach donned national colours in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
His namesake, Didar Singh Jr, was a member of the Asia Cup team. And another promising youngster, Harpal Singh, a deep defender, was a member of Indian team in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad.
Other outstanding Namdhari players are Gurnam Singh "Gama", Gurcharan Singh, Ajmer Singh and Gurvinder Singh. Ajmer and Gurvinder represented India in the last Asian Schools Hockey Tournament in Bangladesh while Gurcharan played for the country in the four-nation tournament India won in Egypt early this year.
Besides them, India’s former center-half Hardeep Singh Grewal and junior international star Daljit Singh also played for the Namdharis for a number of years. They, in fact, accompanied Namdhari hockey team on tours to Europe in late 80s and early 90s.
behind Indian hockey’s resurgence
THE string of achievements of the Indian hockey team in the recent past is laudable. Title wins in the Asia Cup at Kuala Lumpur and more recently at the Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad has put formidable rivals on the guard. No longer can India be considered pushovers and the consistency displayed by our team while notching up impressive wins is indeed praiseworthy.
And two men who have brought about the dramatic change are coach Rajinder Singh and his deputy Baldev Singh. Though media shy, both remain focussed on their objective — to take Indian hockey to dizzy heights and bring back the lost glory.
The Indian hockey team today is a blend of youth and experience. However, what really matters is team spirit and motivation. Both Rajinder Singh and Baldev Singh have injected both in ample measure and skipper Dilip Tirkey, speaking to The Tribune at Hyderabad during the Afro-Asian Games revealed that the homely atmosphere had created unbelievable team spirit within the ranks.
Rajinder Singh took over as coach under trying circumstances. Following India’s debacle in the tenth World Cup at Kuala Lumpur when Cedric D’Souza was sacked as coach, the IHF sounded Rajinder Singh for the hot seat. By then Rajinder Singh had proved his credentials with the historic title win in the junior World Cup at Hobart. Rajinder’s acceptance of the assignment and the subsequent induction of Baldev Singh as his deputy proved to be the turning point.
Under Rajinder Singh guidance, India won the Asia Cup for the first time this year, Four-Nation Tournament in Australia, Panasonic Cup at Hamburg, and the gold in the Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad. The other notable achievements include victories in the junior World Cup, Youth Asia Cup (Epoh - 2001) and the Akbar-el-Yom tourney at Cairo. "Isn’t it a fit case for the Dronacharya Award," asks Baldev.
What is indeed creditable is that the duo have the knack of converting youngsters into potential champions.
Baldev Singh, who belongs to Ludhiana and is a product of Malwa Khalsa School, himself played as right full back whereas Rajinder Singh is an Olympian having played in the 1980 Moscow Olympics where India won the gold. He also played in the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the Asian Games.
Born on November 15, 1951, Baldev Singh studied at GGN Khalsa College, Ludhiana, where he developed keen interest in the game. In 1975-76 he represented Patiala in the nationals and also played in almost all national tournaments. An NIS diploma in 1979-80 paved his way to coaching but prior to that he trained the Arya College hockey team for almost seven years. It was under his tutelage that like Hardeep Singh, Jagdeep Singh and Dalbir Singh shone in the international arena.
Baldev Singh’s training methods found instant recognition and he was approached by the Punjab State Electricity Board to train their team. " I was virtually forced to take up the assignment and I guided the team to the title win in the inter-board tournament," he revealed while concealing the fact that all this while he did not accept any salary.
In 1981, he formed the famous Bhaini Sahib hockey team who won the junior Nehru Hockey Tournament. Incidentally Baldev was adjudged the best coach.
In 1981, Baldev Singh joined the Haryana Sports Department and till 1986 was posted at Shahbad Markanda. Shahbad became a hockey nursery which produced Olympians like Sanjeev Kumar and India’s women’s team captain Sandeep Kaur. From 1986 to 1992 Baldev Singh remained posted at Sirsa where he once again revived the Namdhari hockey team. All team members were from one village - Sri Jiwan Nagar - and one of them, Didar Singh, represented India in the Olympics.
"We have proved our worth. If the IHF reposes confidence in us, you will see the Indian team going from strength to strength," Baldev Singh said.
"People must have faith in us. We may win or lose. Holland won the Champions Trophy but lost in the European Cup. After a long time, our players have acquired self-belief. They feel they can take on any team on their day," he said.
"We must have a good time-frame. For developing a world class team, we need at least 4-5 years. The players should get sound financial help besides accommodation. We also need a national policy. All hockey coaches should function under the guidelines of the national coach as seen in European countries. This is necessary to keep up a steady flow of talent trained as per our requirement."
Rajinder Singh is also a strict disciplinarian. "Through frequent interaction, we know about each player’s habits, his contribution towards the team and his drawbacks. We help each other like family members.
Through video sessions we
try to pinpoint their drawbacks. Physical fitness is also high on our
priority list and Sampath Kumar has been of great help. We have started
making a mark in international hockey once again. Hopefully, we will
bring back the lost glory," says Rajinder Singh for whom the next
major challenge is the qualifying tournament for the Olympics at Madrid
in March 2004.
RETIRED Chief Justice of India B.N. Kripal is the new president of the Delhi Golf Club and Vineet Virmani has retained his post of captain.
The elections, according to some groups, have been on the expected lines. But some senior members contest this observation. They say many members have changed their loyalty and allegiance as they enjoy security through secret ballot.
Whatever may be said for and against, Justice Kripal is a very seasoned personality who should be able to make far-reaching changes in the prestigious club and in its functioning. "I have just taken over and I need some time before I draw my plans and spell out my agenda", said Justice Kripal. He is a golf addict and so is Virmani. They should be able to see that course is the pride and joy of professionals as also of amateurs.
With Mr Pawan Kant Munjal now member of the club, it is possible to hold more international competitions than has been the case at present. There is need to organise more competitions than the Hero Honda Masters and the Indian Open. It is a club where youngsters should be encouraged and provided ample opportunities to groom their talent.
Mr Munjal’s contribution in the sphere of pro golf has been unparalleled. As a sponsor and president of the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI), he has seen to it that golf has reached the common man. His good efforts have been befittingly supplemented by the Tiger Sports Marketing, which has meticulously catered to the needs of the media. Now golf is covered by even language papers, thanks to a ready-made copy provided by the TSM.
As Mr Munjal’s term in the PGAI ended recently, in has Arvind Khanna as president. His credentials are sound. He initiated the TSM, but he has no stake in the company. Even if he has, let there be no non-sense, golf in the country is thriving and throbbing because of the TSM.
Gurbaaz Mann, more than six feet in his socks, is a golfer in the making. Belonging to Chandigarh, he hits a very long ball. His swing is natural and his shoulders are developed. To drive about 350 yards provides him a distinct advantage. This is what Jeev Milkha Singh said on the eve of the Hero Honda Masters.
A dedicated and devoted youngster, Gurbaaz has shown a remarkable improvement in the last three years. When in the USA, he played there collegiate golf where, according to him, he learnt some subtle points of the game.
Only 21, Gurbaaz has turned pro after finishing on the top of the PGAI’s Qualifying School. There are some who feel that he has in him to supercede many established Indian pros. This is saying a lot but golf is more unpredictable than even cricket. It all depends upon his mental make-up. Golf is more in mind than in arms and clubs.
Gaurav Ghei and Digvijay Singh, chosen for the $ 4-million WGC World Cup at Kiawah Island Golf Resort from November 13, will take off for the competition on November 10. They will leave only after finishing the hero Honda Masters, which concludes on Nov 9. This tournament has stood between them and getting acclimatised to conditions in US, where conditions are far more difficult than those obtaining in this country.
Both Ghei and Digvijay are
keyed up to perform creditably. They have in them to cause a few
surprises. It depends upon them. If their mind is at peace, they should
return experienced, full of confidence and with money. The last team
stands to gain $ 40,000.