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Disturbing Domestic Hockey Scene (10/2/2008)
--Subhash Joshi
Editorial: India’s domestic hockey is in itself a distinct model. Unlike most other countries in the West, Oceania and the Pan America, the domestic activity is driven by charity.

Charity in the form of Tournament Organizers. Various sports-interested groups form Societies or Clubs, invite teams, organize tournaments, managing their own resources. They are backbone of Indian hockey, they take hockey to towns and villages – to the heart of fans.

In rare cases, a City Municipal Corporation here and a State Hockey Association there, too pitch in and organize tournaments.

As it always happens when things come this way, normally there should not be any onus on these Societies or Clubs to conduct tournaments. But surprisingly, it has not been the case. These Societies and Clubs are well managed, almost run on professional lines.

The teams for these annual tournaments come from another form of Charity – the government and quasi government sources. Leading government organization like Services and Railways, Public Sectors especially airlines, banking and Oil Sectors recruit players under Sports Quota Provisions and have good hockey teams on their rolls.

These two forms of charities have been running the Indian hockey so far.

So far so good.

Now the season for the domestic tournaments starting, the things look a bit of disturbing.

Within a month’s time, three Grade I tournaments (The Indian Hockey Federation categorize these tournaments and those held in metros, and some know hockey centres, called Grade I) have taken place.

Normally six or seven teams used to be in the reckoning. They include Services, Air India, Indian Airlines, Punjab Police, Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum, Indian Railways, Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) etc.

Very unfortunately Services and Railways, which have wide spectrum of sports teams under their patronage list, do not field teams in these major Grade I tournaments. Nobody took their casualness seriously. The decay has not been arrested in the last decade – so much so nowadays nobody bothers if these two teams don’t figure in any tournament.

This season we found two others powerful teams, Punjab Police and Punjab & Sindh banks gave a go bye to three tournaments held so far in the season.

The non-participation of PSB team is incomprehensible because the bank has only one sport on its board, hockey, yet kept away.

Without services, Railways, PSB and Punjab Police, the domestic honours are left to just three teams – Air India, Indian Airlines and Indian Oil.

Since the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, their teams also merged. Nowadays Air India is the team which is a mix of both Air India and former Indian Airlines teams.

Now the choice has still narrowed down. That is, just two teams in the domestic circuit – Air India and Indian Oil.

That these two teams figured in the finals of all three Majors so far prove how the domestic scene is thinning out.

It is like India winning the Olympic gold at Moscow – without major teams in the fray.

Societies like Jalandhar based Surjit Singh Memorial, tried to overcome the monopoly with teams from Pakistan, but most other organizers can’t afford this extravaganza.

Now, we were reliably told hockey is run by Players (read selectors), the adhoc committee having given them full freedom.

It is wished they take note of the disturbing trend and do the needful. At least they can try to know why PSB and Punjab Police are not fielding their teams so that the Selectors can help them sort out the problem.

Note: Domestic tournament organizations are noramlly interested in leading teams only to attract crowd, and sometimes whimsical in choosing teams. The parent body, Indian Hockey Federation, is therefore expected to plug the hole. The National Championship, the IHF's constitutional duty, was devised to address the problem and accomodate teams from every State and Associate Institutions. However, the past IHF regime did not conduct the annual Nationals, thereby a vital link in the chain was lost, leading to system collapse.

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Domestic Hockey Tournaments.
by Brajesh Dubey on 11/7/2008 12:36:30 AM
In small cities/towns some big banners are invited and before a match starts, everybody knows who is going to win. Everyone including the fighting teams, expect the same result. This thing destroys any excitement in a hockey match. Even the umpiring (knowingly or unknowingly) becomes biased. And a layman does not see any thrill in the game moving the ordinary spectator away from it. The struggle between the equal teams with competence is saved for the last days (mostly the final). This is very irritating and makes the tournament like a fix (however without any intention to do so). Again hockey tournament is a big economical engagement and obviously the organizers want the big teams in it. As a result right from the Kashmir to kniyakumari you find the same 8-10 teams playing in a tournament with some local teams. Why don’t we associate tournaments at towns to regional tournaments, so that the hockey between equally strong teams can be played?