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Is Shobhha De completely out of kilter? Not really!


Shobhha De’s series of ‘well-timed’ tweets deploring Indian athletes’ performances at the Olympics was roundly castigated by the Twitteratti with Abhinav Bindra and Sachin Tendulkar joining the discordant chorus.

 

Sachin Tendulkar:

“The athletes give their best in their efforts to win a medal. All the Indian athletes in Rio 2016 have my support. They work for years and years but when you miss out narrowly, you obviously feel bad.

When the results don’t go your way, that is when you need to support them.

The first half didn’t go our way but you have to support them when the chips are down.”

But there can’t be smoke without fire (not unless it’s dry ice, of course).

Five days into the Games and the medals tally still shows nought against India’s listing.

The shooters have disappointed sorely with only Abhinav Bindra coming close to a bronze and Dipa Karmakar making the vault final in gymnastics.

The archers continue to keep Indians back home waiting for their maiden medal despite years of selection and training to  promote this ancient art and its modern avatar.

The London Olympics saw India claim six medals—two in shooting, two in wrestling and one each in badminton and boxing.

The expectations were that the Indian contingent of 119 would clinch at least seven this time.

That’s less than a six per cent chance of a medal for our sports-persons.

Is that what’s to be expected from our competitors—that 94 per cent of them are to be no-hopers and just make up the numbers and soak in the sights?

Admittedly, the qualification marks have been made stiffer in recent times and for most Indian athletes from sports other than cricket, a chance to participate in the Olympics is the highlight of their low-storied careers.

But surely we can and should demand more from them. Surely at least 25% of them should be realistic medal contenders and the rest should be earmarked as talents for the future sent to assimilate the ethos and pressure of the Games so that they are not overcome with stage fright the next time around.

The qualification marks too could be made a lot more stringent than the minimum needed.

Yes, De’s remarks were ill-advised and probably nothing more than a publicity stunt. It’s a wonder whether our Indian athletes would worry too much about a socialite columnist otherwise.

Perhaps, it’s time Ms. De penned a novella on the state of Indian sport and its heroes (and heroines) rather than her much-beloved Bollywood which conversely draws significant inspiration (and box-office success) from the annals of Indian sport in recent times.

 

Nita Ambani is now India’s only active individual member at the IOC


Nita Ambani, sports promoter and founder chairperson of Reliance Foundation, is now an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

Firstpost—a Reliance group publication—termed Ms. Ambani’s election as “carrying forward the country’s flag in the Olympic Movement.”

The first lady of the Reliance group was voted in as an individual member in Rio on Thursday polling 92.2% valid votes among eight candidates.

The seat of the International Olympic Committe...

The seat of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does being an individual member entail?

The Olympic website states:

“The IOC members, natural persons, are representatives of the IOC in their respective countries, and not their country’s delegate within the IOC. As stated in the Olympic Charter: ‘Members of the IOC represent and promote the interests of the IOC and of the Olympic Movement in their countries and in the organisations of the Olympic Movement in which they serve.’”

So it’s not really a victory for the nation per se—if one wants to nitpick—but actually a shrewd move both by Nita Ambani and the Olympic Committee.

Evidently the committee considers India to be an important cog in its scheme of matters in years to come.

And Nita Ambani gains some legitimacy in the eyes of her numerous detractors and critics who consider her a privileged interloper in the world of Indian sport—not that she cares.

She said:

“I am truly humbled and overwhelmed to be elected by the IOC. This is a recognition of the growing importance of India in the world stage and a recognition for Indian women.

I have always believed in the power of sport to shape our youth. I believe that sports brings together communities, cultures, and generations has the power to unify and unite people. I look forward to spreading the spirit of Olympics and sports across our nation.

I’m working really with multi-sports in India. We want to encourage many other games besides cricket in India like football and basketball and let children be exposed to all kinds of games. So I’m looking forward to building a movement in sports for children in India.’’

She is the only current active Indian member in the IOC and the first Indian woman.

Former Indian Olympic Association Secretary General, Randhir Singh, is an honorary member.

The IOC has 90 members, 36 honorary members and 1 honour member.

Honorary members are usually former members.

Dr. Henry Kissinger is the only honour member of the Committee.

Narsingh Pancham Yadav found innocent by NADA disciplinary panel: Is he home free?


Narsingh Pancham Yadav can consider himself very, very fortunate.

Few expected National Anti-Doping Agency’s (NADA) disciplinary panel to be lenient with the grappler from Mumbai.

But NADA have been benevolent in ruling in favour of the 26-year-old wrestler exonerating him—giving him the benefit of the doubt— by accepting his version of sabotage by a fellow competitor.

Section 10.4 of NADA’s Anti-Doping Rules (2015) states:

10.4 Elimination of the Period of Ineligibility where there is No Fault or
Negligence
If an Athlete or other Person establishes in an individual case that he or she bears No Fault or Negligence, then the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility shall be eliminated.
[Comment to Article 10.4: This Article and Article 10.5.2 apply only to the imposition of sanctions; they are not applicable to the determination of whether an anti-doping rule violation has occurred. They will only apply in exceptional circumstances, for example where an Athlete could prove that, despite all due care, he or she was sabotaged by a competitor.
Conversely, No Fault or Negligence would not apply in the following circumstances: (a) a positive test resulting from a mislabelled or contaminated vitamin or nutritional supplement
(Athletes are responsible for what they ingest (Article 2.1.1) and have been warned against the possibility of supplement contamination); (b) the Administration of a Prohibited Substance by the Athlete’s personal physician or trainer without disclosure to the Athlete
(Athletes are responsible for their choice of medical personnel and for advising medical personnel that they cannot be given any Prohibited Substance); and (c) sabotage of the Athlete’s food or drink by a spouse, coach or other Person within the Athlete’s circle of associates (Athletes are responsible for what they ingest and for the conduct of those Persons to whom they entrust access to their food and drink). However, depending on the unique facts of a particular case, any of the referenced illustrations could result in a reduced sanction under Article 10.5 based on No Significant Fault or Negligence.]

Had Yadav been found guilty, he would have been banned for the full period of four years.

Yadav and his fellow wrestlers celebrated by partaking of sweets outside the agency’s office.

But it’s not all clear for Rio as yet.

Chander Shekhar Luthra of DNA writes:

“…World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has so far refused to bow down to allegations of ‘sabotage’, keeping in mind that such a decision could well cause an irreparable loss to the ‘battle against doping’ at the international level.”

A retired Nada official said:

“What if the entire Russia stand together and say there was a deep conspiracy against their 100 athletes? What if Maria Sharapova now cites the ‘conspiracy’ angle by her opponents in her case that is being heard by Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS)?”

NADA’s rules state that appeals can be filed to both CAS and the National Anti-Doping Appeal Panel within a period of 21 days.

The latter’s unlikely—it would be tantamount to NADA challenging its own decision—but appeals can be made to CAS by WADA, the international Wrestling Federation United World Wrestling and the IOC; there exists no other apparent affected party in the above proceedings.

NADA lawyer Gaurang Kanth complained “he was not allowed to cross-examine Narsingh on the sabotage angle”.

Yadav had tested positive for the anabolic steroid — methandienone — in both his A and B samples.

NADA DG Naveen Agarwal read out the panel’s verdict:

“We kept in mind that in the past, till June 2, none of his samples were positive. It was inconceivable that one-time ingestion would be of benefit. Therefore the panel is of the view that the one-time ingestion was not intentional.”

English: Sushil Kumar, World champion (2010) a...

Sushil Kumar, World champion (2010) and Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Indian wrestler, attending annual sports meet of GGSIPU, Delhi as a chief guest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jitesh Kumar,the 17-year-old accused of spiking Yadav’s drinks is a trainee at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar supervises the wrestlers there. An FIR has already been filed by Yadav at the Rai police station in Haryana.

Societe Generale and Puma to sponsor rugby in India


Is rugby the next sport set to take off in India?

One would hope so given that French financial services major Societe Generale announced a long-term partnership with Rugby India to promote the game in the country.

SG will not just be a financial partner but also the title sponsor for the Indian National Rugby Sevens Team’ across all categories — senior, junior and women.

Societe Generale will also support World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’, an initiative to teach the game in schools and introduce children to the sport.

Puma have joined the bandwagon as well providing kits to the men’s and women’s teams.

All this went down at the Bombay Gymkhana on Thursday the 28th of July, 2016.

Flag of Bombay Gymkhana, a popular club in Mumbai

Flag of Bombay Gymkhana, a popular club in Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bombay Gymkhana main corridor

Bombay Gymkhana main corridor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The deal is initially for a period of three years.

Rugby is being reinstated at the Rio Olympics this year after a gap of 92 years.

And Japan is set to be the first Asian country to host the World Cup in 2019.

India is currently ranked 12th among 32 Asian countries who take part.

Aga Hussain, VP of Asia Rugby, believes that India can break into the top five in the next five years.

Solar Energy company PROINSO have also signed a sponsorship deal with the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

Rugby has over 44,000 registered players in the country.

The game was first played in India in 1871.

English: Europeans playing rugby football in C...

Europeans playing rugby football in Calcutta. Note – lack of Indian people, round (rather than oval) ball, unusual clothing and goal posts. Several of the players appear to be Welsh (hence the dragon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The national team, however, was not formed until 1998. Their first game was against Singapore.

They were inducted into the International Rugby Board only in 2001.

India have never qualified for the Rugby World Cup.

If rugby in India has a profile, it’s mostly due to Bollywood star, Rahul Bose, who represented India for almost 25 years.

Bose played 20 international matches but hung up his boots in 2008.

On his retirement, Bose said:

“Preparing and playing international rugby takes around two months which I don’t have on me now. I have to travel for film festivals, give lectures, I’m on the board of six NGOs and besides I also have my films. Rugby doesn’t pay you well and besides, the youngest player in the team is 18. I must have played with their fathers in school. I’m 40 now, so the signs are loud and clear that I should quit before I start playing with my friends’ children on the team.”

On what he gained from playing the sport:

“Like how to lose gradually and enjoy the score, not the result; to be a team player, because by nature I am an individualist; if you try to play alone, you are bound to get hurt; and, to have a hot heart and keep a cool head. Today we rank 81st among 110 countries and 50 years later, we will rank in the top 20 position. We will be part of the CommonWealth Games, too, but I will be a grandfather by then.”

Bose, of course, was present at the press conference announcing the tie-up with Societe General and Puma India as evidenced by the post below.

Bose need no longer be pessimistic about the state of Indian rugby.

Things are looking up for sport in India and rugby in particular.

Narsingh Yadav: Culpable or not? 


The entire sorry episode of Narsingh Yadav’s failed dope test and his subsequent disqualification  this year’s Rio Olympics reads like a really bad Dick Francis thriller . 

Yadav claims that he is the victim of a conspiracy, that his food and supplements were spiked by mischievous elements. An investigation by India Today appears to bear out his version. There are reports of an intruder mixing an unidentified  white, powdery substance in his food portions. 

Suspicion is rife given that his roommate Sandeep Tulsi Yadav  too has tested positive for steroids. Were they made patsies by unscrupulous persons? 

Yadav is reportedly shattered by the turn of events and is said to have contemplated killing himself. 

It all seems tragically anti-climactic given the court  drama pursuant to the non-selection of Sushil Kumar and Yadav’s ‘meritorious‘   showing. 

Accusations and counter-accusations will continue to fly over the next few days—at least,  until Indian athletes reach Rio. 

Is Yadav being victimised by powerful parties within the SAI?  Or is he simply unwilling to admit any  wrongdoing? 

Surely,  the Indian public deserves to know. 

Should Russia be disbarred from Rio?


The Court for Arbitration in Sports (CAS) has pronounced its verdict.

The seat of the International Olympic Committe...

The seat of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The IAAF-imposed ban on the Russian Athletics Federation stays.

No Russian track-and-field athlete will be competing in Rio—at least, not under their national flag.

The International Olympic Committee will decide the fate of the Russian contingent when it meets today.

IOC Headquater

IOC headquarters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Lausanne, Switzerland - IOC seat Česk...

English: Lausanne, Switzerland – IOC seat Česky: Lausanne, Švýcarsko – sídlo MOV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CAS judgment is non-binding on the Committee.

WADA and predominantly western nations’ Olympic Committees are vocally in favour of a blanket ban on the rogue nation given clear and damning evidence of state-sponsored collusion in doping. They feel that the IOC must exhibit ‘zerotolerance‘  towards systematic doping by any state. 

Olympic Games 1896, Athens. The International ...

Olympic Games 1896, Athens. The International Olympic Committee. From Left to right, standing: Gebhardt (Germany), Guth-Jarkovsky (Bohemia), Kemeny (Hungary), Balck (Sweden); seated : Coubertin (France), Vikelas (Greece & chairman), Butovsky (Russia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

National Olympic Committees have been banned before—simply not for drug-related scandals.

Collective responsibility should not come at the cost of individual justice—the IOC is seeking a balance.

The Russian public believes that their country is being discriminated against by the Western world. They cannot accept that all their athletes are drugged.

A sanction against all Russian competitors would be unfair to those abiding by the rule book. 

While the IOC has several options before arriving at a final decision, a simple solution would be to allow the Russians to participate—both under their national banner and the Olympic one but have each one of their athletes subjected to both in-competition and out-of-competition testing.

This would allow clean athletes to breathe freely and hopefully deter sportspersons who are doping.

This would also send a strong message to errant national sports federations everywhere that unless they clean up their act, their athletes and their fellow countrymen will be treated like Caesar’s wife—not above suspicion.

Simply leaving the decision to international sports federations burdens them further and not all of them are fully equipped to make an informed decision on the matter.

Whatever the IOC’s decision, there will be no pleasing everyone.

That’s a given.

Vijender and Ronaldinho: Commonality of skill and genius


Professional sports is not always about speed and power.

It’s also about skill, precision and deception.

Nothing illustrated this better than Vijender Singh’s performance during his WBO Asia title bout against Australian Kerry Hope and Ronaldinho’s in the Premier Futsal game for Goa against Bengaluru.

Hope was the more aggressive of the two seeking to flatten Singh with his left jab and powerful right. But Vijender absorbed it all and retaliated with counterpunching of his own—Hope’s only response was to engage in ‘professional’ clinching of the worst kind.

It was the Haryanvi’s first 10 rounder but he withstood the onslaught of a man who had run a half-marathon in 1:35 just two weeks earlier.

Admittedly, it was not a very entertaining encounter. Perhaps, boxers and students of the sport would appreciate it better.

The result, though, was an unanimous decision  in Vijender’s favour.

Unlike his earlier six fights, this did not end in a knockout. The prize, however, was his.

Ronaldinho retired from international football last year.

Futsal is his second coming.

The happiest soccer player on the planet was in his element in the game against Bengaluru on Sunday scoring five out of seven goals for his side.

The Brazilian displayed his entire repertoire in a spirited performance that left the crowd astounded and his fans in delirium.

Two exponents of the art of two different games but a common thread shone through them.

Experience counts for something—after all.

Sultan: Another megahit for Salman Khan, puts wrestling on Bollywood map


Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Language: Hindi

Directed by:
Ali Abbas Zafar

Produced by:
Aditya Chopra

Written by:
Ali Abbas Zafar

Screenplay by:
Aditya Chopra

  • Salman Khan as Sultan Ali Khan
  • Anushka Sharma as Aarfa Ali Khan née Hussain
  • Anant Vidhaat Sharma as Govind/Sultan’s friend
  • Meiyang Chang as Pro Takedown host
  • Randeep Hooda as Fateh Singh/Sultan’s coach
  • Amit Sadh as Aakash, Pro Takedown founder and Sultan’s presenter
  • Tyron Woodley as Tyron (Himself) (wrestler)
  • Marko Zaror as Marcus, the finalist wrestler.
  • Kumud Mishra as Barkat Hussain

 

Akash Oberoi’s mixed martial arts (MMA) league is in trouble. He needs a fighter who can draw in an Indian audience and fast.

His father recommends the name of Sultan—a middle-aged wrestler—living in a small town in Haryana.

Akash meets Sultan only for the fighter to reject his offer claiming that he has given up wrestling forever.

Oberoi is flummoxed and meets Sultan’s associate Govind to learn what he can do to change Sultan’s mind.

Thus begins the flashback into the story of Sultan’s past—his romance with Aarfa Ali Khan, his initiation into the sport in order to impress her (no mean wrestler herself) and her father and how he becomes the supreme wrestler of his time and era.

The duo light up the wrestling world earning plaudits at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. Both are scheduled to participate in the 2012 Olympics but Arafa becomes pregnant just before the Games. She stays home while her spouse goes on the represent India at the Games and clinch gold.

Sultan becomes egoistic after his many-layered success believing that he cannot be beaten by anyone except himself.

He refuses to participate in grassroots level mud akhada tournaments and leaves home once more for the World Championships.

He wins gold but is shattered on learning that his new-born son afflicted with anaemia lost the fight for life in his absence. The doctors could not find anyone with his rare blood type (O Rh –ve)—a blood group Sultan shares.

Sultan—with his hockey stick—knocks over the head of the statue dedicated to his Olympic triumph. 

The couple separate. Thus begins the second phase of Sultan’s life—a descent into obscurity and petitioning local politicians to approve the founding of a  blood bank in the town.

Akash seizes upon Sultan’s requirements and promises him that the cash earned by fighting in his MMA league will deliver his desired dream of a blood bank named after his son.

Sultan undergoes strenuous training under Fateh Singh—a blacklisted MMA fighter—and learns the ropes of the new sport.

Sultan is thoroughly thrashed by every opponent but defeats them by outlasting them and throwing them over with his classic akhada moves.

In typical Bollywood style, the fight scenes and background score tug at the heartstrings and Sultan is reconciled with Arafa when he is critically injured in the semis. Disregarding medical advice, Sultan fights on and emerges victorious in the final round.

Sultan visualizes Marcus as his younger, arrogant self depicting the maxim that man’s biggest victory is over himself.

Sultan launches a blood bank with his prize money and is reunited with his wife who resumes wrestling. Some years later, they are blessed with a baby girl whom Sultan starts training in the sport.

Highlights of the movie:

Sultan’s gloves imprinted with the words ‘Venum’.

Sometimes you wish Sultan would just stay down after absorbing the kind of punishment he does at his age. MMA is a young man’s sport and the storyline is all pathos with very little logos.

Can you  imagine that an Olympic Gold wrestler would find it hard to raise funds for a blood bank? State and central governments should be falling over themselves to support any such endeavour. Had Sultan’s return to the ring had been an attempt at redemption,  it could have resonated more with the audience. But maybe that’s been overdone and  clichéd. 

Dialogues delivered in earthy Haryanvi seem to be literal translations of inspirational English quotes.

The movie is populated with product placements—the most prominent one is Videocon’s D2H placed quite strategically at the back of Sultan’s scooter.

Songs are  largely forgettable.

While there is no glossing over Arafa’s sacrifice and dismay at learning that she’s on the cusp of motherhood, one felt that Anushka could have portrayed her angst better and that it is perhaps the beginning of the rift between husband and wife. 

Salman Khan’s scene where he tears off his shirt to self-loathingly view his pot-bellied self in the mirror is perhaps his best attempt at method acting ever. 

Randeep Hooda as Fateh Singh is impressive.

A must see for Salman fans—they don’t need reviews anyway.

Rajdeep Sardesai, Sania Mirza se panga mat le


How could a seasoned journalist like Rajdeep Sardesai appear so crass, insensitive and sexist on national television?

That’s the question that must be uppermost in the minds of most of his fans (I am one of his many admirers—he also happens to be a Xavierite)  when the veteran journo committed a faux pas by asking India’s number one female tennis star, Sania Mirza , the following query:

“Amidst all the celebrityhood, when is Sania going to settle down? Is it going to be in Dubai? Is it going to be in any other country? What about motherhood… building a family… I don’t see all that in the book, it seems like you don’t want to retire just yet to settle down.

…You don’t talk about retirement, about raising a family, about motherhood, what’s life beyond tennis is going to be…”

The response was swift and acerbic—typical Sania.

“You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway, that’s the question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number ones in the world we become, we don’t become settled. But eventually it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that.”

Sardesai quickly backtracked realising his erroneous line of questioning.

He said:

“I must apologise, I framed that question very badly. I promise you, you’re right, I would never ask this question to a male athlete…”

True, very true. Such a question would never be put to a male sportsperson.

Neither should it be put to any sportsperson.

There was very little logic  or reasoning to Sardesai’s enquiry. These are the type of questions every single career woman (or man)  learns to field  from ‘friendly’ , inquisitive neighbourhood ‘aunties‘—not from a TV presenter of Sardesai’s caliber.

While not detracting from the many sacrifices she has made to come so far,  it must be pointed out that Mirza is in her late 20s—not late 30s. She is a happily married, healthy young woman. She can have it all—should she choose. 

The interrogation was improper. And Sardesai had his just desserts.

Mirza was on television promoting her autobiography ‘Ace against odds’ coauthored with her father Imran Mirza and journalist Shivani Gupta.

Remembering Mohammed Shahid while he fights yet another battle in Gurgaon


I don’t remember watching Mohammad Shahid play.

Hassan Sardar—his Pakistani counterpart—was much more of a household name in those days.

But I do recall—faintly—the 7-1 drubbing of the Indian men’s hockey side in the 1982 Asiad final in New Delhi.

It was a tragedy—a loss wasn’t unexpected—-but  humiliation was disaster.

Mohammed Shahid was a member of that squad; he was also part of the 1980 side that last won gold for India at an Olympics.

But it was goalie Mir Ranjan Negi who was anointed villain of the piece. He was termed a ‘traitor’ and there were claims that he had been bribed by his opponents.

Negi said:

“Everywhere I went, I was abused by the public. Nothing matters to me more than playing for my country. I am a proud Indian and will always be so. There were lots of things that happened in the run-up to the final. You find out. I will not speak about the politics that contributed to our defeat.”

His team-mate Zafar Iqbal later said:

“The entire team was to blame; we forwards missed chances, the defence left huge gaps that the Pakistanis exploited. Despite making great efforts to cover the gaps, poor Negi became a sitting duck and the Pakistanis scored at will […] He was blamed solely, but every player was to blame […] The atmosphere was vicious. I remember someone claiming that he had seen Negi come out of the Pakistan High Commission on match eve […] Some even enquired whether Negi, with his first name Mir, was Muslim.”

Hassan Sardar believes that the scoreline was no indicator of how close the final really was.

He says:

“Do you know who the man-of-match that day was? It was our 17-year-old goalkeeper, also named Shahid (Ali Khan) who made more than eight saves that day. Nobody remembers that, the scoreline should have been 7-5 or 7-6, just an indication of how good the Indian team was back then.”

Mohammed Shahid now lies in a hospital bed in Gurgaon fighting for his life against a liver condition that afflicted him following a bout of jaundice and dengue.

Shahid is an employee with the Railways. They will be picking up all his medical expenses.

His condition is still critical.

The Sports Ministry has announced a grant of Rs. 10 lakhs for the former Olympian.

Sundeep Misra of Firstpost describes  Shahid thus:

“In the late 70’s and early 80’s, you didn’t go to watch hockey. You went to watch magic; mesmerizing magic created by a man from Benares called Mohammed Shahid.

Those were the kind of skills that couldn’t be taught. No amount of coaching camps, elite coaches could create supple wrists that, honestly, were an extension of the hockey stick. Shahid, short but lithe displayed his dribbling skills like a card-dealer in a casino. Defences retracted inwards, backing off not willing to take on this twisting and turning dervish whose only challenge in life seemed to be cutting through defences like a combine harvester in a wheat field. Fans watched in disbelief. Opposition coaches gave up. Defenders wanted to quit the sport. Little kids wanted to know ‘dodge kaise karte hain’. Commentators lost their voice if Shahid didn’t have the ball. In those days, Mohammed Shahid was hockey.”

A Times Of India story called him “the genius of dribble”.

Shahid himself was much more self-effacing.

He said:

“Look, I am Mohammed Shahid. That will not ever change. Yes, I was India captain; people said I had God given talent with dribbling skills. Mujhe bhi yaad hai, har waqt mar dodge, mar dodge. Par ek time ke baad mann bhar gaya (Even I remember dodging past players all the time. But after a while, it was enough).”

Sardar has fond memories of playing against Shahid.

He said:

“Yeh bade afsos ki baat hai (It is quite unfortunate to hear of this) Kya kamaal ka khiladi tha! Aisi behetreen stickwork modern hockey mein bahut kum dekhne ko milti thi. We may have been sworn rivals on the field, but I was a Shahid fan. All our pre-match plans would revolve around how to check Shahid and he would simply destroy it all. We could never catch him

But do you know, Shahid and I were part of a dream attacking trio that could never be realised. Shahid would often tell me, ‘Hassan-bhai, had we played together in the same team, no one would have been able to touch us.’ Imagine a team where Zafar was left-in, I was centre forward and Shahid on the right…”

Hassan laughingly recollected an incident during the 1986 bilateral series when he was at the receiving end of Shahid’s wizardry and threatened to sort Shahid out by visiting his hotel room.

He said:

“Blind with rage, I told him, ‘Arrey, mujhe sey panga kyun le rahe ho?! Lag jayegi, toh udte hue jaoge.’ But it just wasn’t us alone. None of the European teams could ever catch him. In the Pakistan camp, we would say, ‘Yeh sabke phephre nikal deta hai, bhaga bhaga ke…”

Shahid has the respect and love of his countrymen, teammates and opponents.

Here’s hoping that he makes a full recovery and soon.

——————————-

Mohammed Shahid passed away aged 56 on July 20, 2016. May his soul rest in peace. 

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