Did India notice hockey win over Pakistan because Kohli's boys ‘let the nation down’?

Reactions from social media to India whipping Pakistan 7-1 in the Olympic hockey arena were a bit muted.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   19-06-2017
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India versus Pakistan in any sporting arena is usually top drawer stuff.

On Sunday, in London, India versus Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final and India versus Pakistan in the FIH Hockey World League were a study in contrast.

Cricket is an elite sport, despite the fact in India it is played in the bylanes of crowded cities and make-shift pitches in small parks.

Sadly, the mass connect for hockey is no longer there as it was in the past. Reactions from social media to India whipping Pakistan 7-1 in the Olympic hockey arena were a bit muted.

It was as if the celebrities who have a huge following were congratulating the hockey players because Virat Kohli's boys "let the nation down".

You can well say, it was just a loss and not everything is lost. But then, such is the mood of the nation concerning cricket that losing to Pakistan cannot be digested. Images of television sets being smashed in some places in India made for bad viewing.

Way back in the 1982 Asian Games hockey final in New Delhi, when Pakistan thrashed India, there was mourning at home. Then goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi was branded a villain. Some even called him a traitor. On that day, the magical skills of Pakistan's dashing Hassan Sardar made all the difference.

It needed years for Negi to get over that trauma as he was a haunted man. In sport, mistakes do happen. But many felt Negi had given away goals "willingly", which was so sad.

We need to have faith in sportspersons who play for our country. In cricket, you will keep hearing the fixing and betting words. No, not in hockey, as these players are made of steel and play from their heart for the country.

At a time when cricket corners most of the sponsorship deals at home and space in media and television, hockey gets noticed only when there are high intensity matches like India versus Pakistan.

On Sunday, Indian hockey rose again beautifully to show Pakistan how modern hockey is played. Mind you, this was the same venue where India had finished at the bottom in the 2012 London Olympics. Much water has flown below the Thames since then and Indian hockey can now truly say that it was a Chak De moment.

negi-embed_061917091925.jpgIt needed years for then goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi to get over the trauma of India's loss to Pakistan in hockey at the 1982 Asian Games. 

So, where does Indian hockey go from here? In terms of recognition and adulation, hockey will never come near cricket. You cannot blame cricket for it as the mindset needs to change.

Just do a small survey and you will find how very few schools in India actually have hockey pitches. Punjab used to be the nursery of hockey in India. Much has changed and for the good.

Today, Indian hockey is played the modern way. It's not about individual flair and skill. The emphasis on fitness and speed is high. Skills become a component in it, which is why India are able to take on robust European teams as well around the world.

One should not start dreaming that now Indian hockey will be back on top and in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics we will win a medal. The process is on and beating Pakistan is certainly a big thrust and morale booster.

Mind you, this team was without star goalkeeper Pr Sreejesh, recovering from a knee surgery.

Today, Indian hockey has depth. Players are getting more exposure and their living conditions have improved thanks to the efforts of Dr Narinder Batra, former Hockey India president who now heads the world body.

Our hockey players are now mentally ready for the kill. Beating Pakistan is now becoming a habit, for the win against our neighbours in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games final is still fresh in memory.

World hockey has changed and India is now a part of it. Rightly, it should stick to the winning mode and hope it can inspire the youth of nation to take up a truly thrilling and fast sport.

Also read: Champions Trophy 2017: Why losing to Pakistan is a good thing for India

Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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