Every school kid knows that hockey is the national sport of our nation. With Dhyan Chand, the famed sport veteran on its list, you would think that this great sport would be known through all the narrow streets of our country? But then perhaps that is the problem. If someone were to ask you to name your favorite cricketer, I’m sure a lot of names would come to your head: Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Yuvraj Singh and the like. But when it comes to hockey, besides the aforementioned hockey sportsman, there aren’t many names that come to one’s mind, are there?
One could, as usual blame the infrastructure of our great nation, and one would, perhaps not be wrong. The narrow streets of our cities, or ‘gullies’ ensure that the sport played by young kids is limited to cricket or ‘gulli danda’. Moreover, the equipment, rules and promotion required imply that hockey is not a very well known or widely played sport even in villages, where there is adequate field space for the game.
But that doesn’t mean we are not professionals when it comes to our national sport. Amidst reports that the Indian hockey players are underfed and under-equipped, there is a silver lining in the form of the dedication and perseverance that our hockey players continue to showcase on the field. For instance, when I got the opportunity to watch the Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, I was elated to find that the home team of Delhi called the Waveriders, with players both Indian and those borrowed from other international teams showed much zeal and excellence when they played off against the Jaypee Punjab Warriors. Though the Delhi team lost, it was a great game with a lot of nail biting excitement; and one must, in the spirit of sportsmanship heartily congratulate the Punjab team.
And one cannot forget to mention the awe-inspiring performance of the national Indian team at the Hero Hockey World League (HHWL), though they were ousted in the classification games. The point remains that our hockey team is well deserving of all its laurels – and more; it is only a matter of more public appreciation and participation in cheering our exceptional players (and the people behind them, like their seasoned coach, Terry Walsh). Once that happens, once more people start going to the matches (where VIP seats are available at a catch of just Rs. 150/-) and watching them on their TV screens, then our hockey players will receive the credit that is truly due to their hard work.
Cricket is a great game, no doubt but there is a glory, a prestige involved in playing or even merely watching our national sport. Why cannot more parents send their kids to hockey academies rather than cricket ones? As a matter of fact, why don’t we have more children aspiring to be hockey players instead of going for the same old, same old? Truth be told, as much fun as cricket is, and it really is an excellent game, it should not become the reason for our utter negligence of other sports. Besides hockey, there is badminton (with erstwhile Greats such as Prakash Padukone and the current favorite, Saina Nehwal), kickboxing and wrestling, not to mention shooting, archery and the like to keep us hooked to the sports channel, to feel no absence for cricket matches.
See, for example all the work that Hockey India (previously known as the Indian Hockey Federation) has put in, with the array of matches and tournaments it has lined up in the upcoming months. If you feel persuaded, like I hope you do, then do check out the following website for a schedule of the matches to be held soon in your city: Hero Hockey India League Schedule 2014
So I ask you, dear readers, all I can implore of you is to give cricket a break and try, for once the national sport of India. You will be surprised how action-packed, rip-roaring and spine tingling of a game hockey can be!