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Dilip 400 and going strong (4/6/2009)
--K. Arumugam
A sordid drama occurred during India’s recent visit to New Zealand. Before the third test at Wellington, the New Zealand Hockey Federation organized a gesture to honour Dilip Tirkey, who according to them, was playing his 400th international match on that day (please see the note). A moment after Kiwi’s captain broke from the line up, came to Dilip and congratulated him, a coaching staff went to the organizers to whisper something. The ceremony was abruptly cancelled. A genius called Dilip Tirkey, hockey’s own ‘Wall’ consumed the humiliation without a murmur.

In an ironical twist, the same coaching team invited Dilip for a private party last week at Bhopal camp to mark the landmark achievement! What happened between these two incidents is not clear, but the fact of the matter is the living legend has seen enough episodes of such humiliation in his otherwise illustrious career. Victoria was not an exception.

“Sometime I feel hurt on some coaches’ attitude towards us (read tribal players). They don’t get us any drink or any warmth when we meet them privately but at the same time they go overboard for other players”, Dilip opened his heart rather unusually during the course of this writer penning his biography a couple of years ago.

In a country where umpires change decisions on seeing intimidating reaction from players of particular team or region, no coaching staff would have ever dared of enacting a kind drama that Victoria witnessed to anybody other than to the tribal simpletons of Orissa and Jharkhand.

Tribal stars have to work harder, last longer to get the same adulation that comes to others so easily and so early. This is a thumb rule in Indian hockey. Dilip was made captain in 2002 after seven years of rigorous grind involving 240 matches whereas others got it within four years even before completing 100 caps.

Sumrai Tete and Ignace Tirkey are yet to get Arjuna even after 10 years of hard grind at very high level while many minnows have walked away with those honours -- and even retired!

An top Orissa State Hockey Association official openly accused Dilip of ‘treachery’ when Orissa Steelers failed to defend the crown in the last Premier Hockey League. The entire Sundargarh district agitated, a march was taken out, an MP and two MLAs too took part, but the dishonour to a hockey great did not go beyond the district boundaries.

Coaches of late attribute to Indian Defence for most of the defeats, as if the defence works in isolation from midfield and attack line. They are closing in on Dilip’s career, covertly. Even he was dropped from the probables list last year.

The eternal sitting duck Dilip endured endless bouts of callousness and carelessness from both collegues, peers and coaches. Even amidst everything, the defender has given India its proudest moment. First Indian and only the second in the world to cross the 400th barrier. A couple of days later he will become the most capped player in the hockey world.

It’s time to hail the hero.

Will the Adhoc Committee, who rode to power promising a new hockey culture, spare time to honour Dilip on this momentous occasion? Note: Neither the IHF nor the FIH maintain cap record of players. According to some Dilip has already played 403 matches. This writer gives him the 400th cap for tomorrow’s match. The difference was due to the fact that some credits 7 matches for his debut Olympics (Atlanta) though actually he played only three matches as per the Olympic Committee’s published data.

Note: Part of the article was published in Hindustan Times on 5th April 2009

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