After Independence power gradually gripped the nation, both internationally and intra-nationally. Within India, callousness entered through the back door and slowly gripped power. Outside India, it was cleverness that handled power beautifully to see that India did not rise to its potential at normal speed. Our power holders in India played into their hands. Hockey administration toed the same line.
Hockey was beautiful in the days of Dyanchand until perhaps the late fifties. Not because we used to win but because Hockey was played with a certain level of craft and skill that was beautiful. The bully at the centre, also at the twenty five-line, had an element of chance founded on the capability of ball control. The penalty bully did give some chance to the defenders, if they were better at bullies. The dribbles, the dodges, the moves always had a certain charm about them. Asian Hockey (the Indian and the Pakistani) was at the top. The West didn’t like it. They knew that the superior physical prowess of theirs could do nothing against the Asian artistry in dribbling and dodging and mindboggling moves. They were simply rattled. So what did they do? They decided to change the very fabric of the game. Gradually they succeeded in changing the playing condition, the rules and regulations and the very nature and spirit of Hockey which the Asians were unquestionably good at. Perhaps they were unsurpassable.
They moved the twenty five-line to thirty five-line. The dribbling space thus was reduced. The off-side rule now applied at thirty-five. The bully was removed. One more skill was done away with. If that was not enough, they introduced the astro-turf. They changed the shape of the blade of the stick. The astro-turf required very strong legs and calf muscles. The smaller blade suited robust hitting rather than skillful dribbling. Changes in short corner and penalty rules and replacing pushes with strokes encouraged robust power game and crippled Asian Hockey which found it hard to adapt according to the new demands of the game because of physical unequalness and various socio-politico-economic factors.
Now that when India has a wooden spoon and Pakistan, seventh position, in the Olympiad 2012, it is time we took some strong measures.
We should go back to promote our Asian style of Hockey. We should play on hard surface or grass and bring back the aesthetics of the game and stop playing power Hockey on artificial surface. Dribbling, old fashioned dodges and moves will automatically fall in place and the game will regain its charm and romance. The size of the blade must be restored to its earlier shape.
These measures will reduce the expenses considerably on having to provide astro-turf at the grass root level. This will also take care of the needless and perhaps over ambitious efforts to raise the fitness level of our youth to be able to grapple with the brute force and pace and power of the Western World. This will drastically cut down the expenses on physical training programmes. Physical training should be there only to facilitate acquiring the fitness level suited to our own attainable capabilities. We should play to our strength and not to theirs. We should play Indian Hockey just as they play American Football or Australian Rugby. Wimbledon still has grass courts and has persisted with an indeflectable will to preserve the grace of lawn tennis.
After all the purpose of games and sports is to attain physical health through recreation so that balanced human personalities are developed. Competition is acceptable only amongst like contenders. Unequal competitiveness promotes unhealthy, unfair and self-defeating ambition to win bronze, silver or gold. No wonder sports persons take banned medicines and fail doping tests.
It might be argued that we have travelled a considerable distance in developing power Hockey and it would be naïve at this stage to even think of giving up the challenge. If discretion is the better part of valour it is better to give up the false challenge now than to continue to fail for years and years to come. We should look to the generation next, that is, the ten year old aspirants. They should be trained to treat and nurse Hockey of the old Indian style.
India has acquired a significant place in world economy. We are now able to dictate terms. India and Pakistan should organize their own World Cups and Champions Trophies .Let the West come and play on our grounds, in our style and see who wins!
The aim of sports and games is, I repeat, recreation, not crazy unequal competitiveness. Sports and games must be there to create and recreate and develop a sound body for a healthy mind and a healthy soul to take over and progress towards peace and happiness.