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Book Review: Gloom to Glory (9/30/2008)
Mr Ranjan Negi, the much humiliated goalkeeper of the ill-fated 1982 Asian Games – he was widely condemned for conceding 7 goals against Pakistan in the final - has recently come out with his personal account of his hockey career: ‘Mir Ranjan Negi Gloom to Glory’.

Normally, as ‘disgraced player’ as Negi would not have ventured into book writing, that too, 26 years after those tumultuous days. He was emboldened in this, after the success of blockbuster Chak De India, in which he gave hockey training to the girls.

As only expected, therefore, the book in essence dwells at length on his role in the making of Chak De India and the sequence that led to India’s rout at Delhi Asiad.

Was India hypnotized on that fateful day? Who is Iqbal trailing Indian team not only at the Asiad but also during the Asia Cup in Karachi a year ago? How could otherwise India have missed 3 penalty strokes in the Asia Cup final against Pakistan?

The Iqbal mystery is a sidelight to the centerpiece in the Negi’s reasoning of Delhi disaster. Balbir Sr., in charge of hockey, comes in for heavy criticism for changing playing eleven at the eleventh hour, and for failing to substitute the off-form goalkeeper, Negi himself. He mentions that even Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wanted Negi to be substituted.

Negi introduces himself as Garwali, son of an atheist, who somewhere lost himself at Bhopal in the company of bad elements. Hockey retrieves him, he joins the national camp at Patiala whence his career changes for better. His selection for the Junior World Cup and subsequent trips lands him a decent job in Mumbai Customs.

Life goes on well till one day an untimely interview spoilt his Moscow Olympic trip, thus missing out on a sure Olympic gold. His portrayal of Europe trips, how the fight between IHF and Dutch Hockey Association came to haunt them at the Bombay World Cup a few months later are all interesting stuff any hockey lover, nay sports lover, would like to savour in Gloom to Glory.

Negi fondly recollects how Jothikumaran, former IHF Secretary, resurrected him with an offer to coach the 1998 Asian Games team that would later ensure Gold after 36 years. Negi, being the goalkeeper-coach, prides himself for selecting Ashish Ballal for the crucial tie-break in the final. Negi does not approve of coach MK Kaushik’s outburst against the IHF then, though spares none for dropping six players from that team.

His subsequent forays into men’s teams are mentioned, but the centerpiece thereafter moves to women’s domain. He mentions the climax in the Chak De film -- where the goalkeeper follows the sign of coach to stop rival team’s strokes -- is exactly what he did in the final of the 2003 Afro-Asian Games with Helen Mary.

In all, Negi attempts to equate his hockey career to that of Kabir Khan’s. He observes: 'Sometimes I get confused, this film runs so closely parallel to my life, the triumph of Kabir Khan seems to be mine'.

Negi now is a celebrity. He dabbles in dancing and acting. He has enough offers to keep him away from the memories of sad demise of his elder son, Abhi.

Negi says the proceeds of the book will go to Abhi Foundation, which he set up towards the cause of hockey.

The book is written nicely, has ample anecdotes unknown hitherto. One also gets a fair idea of hockey as it existed in the late 70s and early 80s.

This work is aimed at larger audience in particular the glamour world.

This is a terrain our hockey is desperate to traverse but hardly ever able to -- to extend its sphere of influence.

Negi has done that exactly.

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by soman bose on 10/9/2008 3:53:02 PM
where is this book available?