The Mint editorial on Saturday the 18th of June, 2016 read:
“Recently, ESPN did some number crunching to come up with a list of the most famous athletes in the world.
Virat Kohli came in at No. 8. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 14th and Sania Mirza made a creditable showing at 41.
What are the odds that an Indian hockey player—despite the team’s stellar performance at the Champions Trophy this week—will gain that sort of name recognition even briefly?
It’s an old story.
Cricket is the colossus dwarfing every other sport in India. Even as a few other sportspersons—Mirza, Leander Paes, Saina Nehwal, for instance—have gained prominence, hockey has remained trapped in a cycle of uneven performances, endless administrative squabbles and a lack of public attention even when it performs well.
Will the Champions Trophy and the Olympics see a sustained run of good performances and the spotlight that should come with it or will it be another false dawn?”
The above was the publication’s response to the Indian men’s hockey team’s performance at the recently concluded Champions trophy in London. India finished a respectable second claiming their first ever silver medal at the elite tourney.
India lost just two games—one each to Belgium and Australia. The final was a goalless affair—their antipodean rivals won on penalties in the final.
Yet, the Mint’s ‘Quick Edit‘ rings true. Any Indian sports lover can reel off the names of every member of the Indian cricket team—possibly even the names of players of the IPL teams they support. But very few can recall the names of sportsmen in other team sports.
(P.S. That includes me.)
Is the Indian sports lover solely to blame for this state of affairs?
The traditional media namely newspapers, magazInes and news channels devote very little time and space to other sports besides cricket in India.
(Winners hit the headlines more often than not.
Cheating winners even more so. Ask Sharapova.
Nobody cares for cheating losers except the drug-testing bodies.)
That truly is a sad state of affairs.
Especially when this Indian side looks good to clinch a medal at this year’s Rio Olympics.
In the past, Indian hockey teams have flattered to deceive in the run-up to the Games. Their strategies, tactics and players are studied and ploys to nullify their effectiveness are hatched up and unveiled at the Games by their opposing coaches.
Roelant Oltmans seems up to the challenge.
The team keeps improving under his stewardship and it is noteworthy that the side performed much better in their second game against the Aussies.
The team lacks consistency though. They ought not to have conceded a second goal to Belgium—they are vulnerable on the break. The players lack the speed to fall back quickly enough to thwart counterattacks. And they have trouble getting the ball into the ‘D’ in the face of concerted defence tactics employed by their opponents.
Should the team be grouped with Australia, another loss like the one to Belgium could spell the death knell for any podium aspirations.
Hockey India announced an award of Rs. 2 lakhs to every individual player of this Champions trophy side.
This Indian side will surely hit the jackpot should they return with a medal from Rio.
In fact, they must—for this victory to be a true, new dawn.