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Glory and Agony by Sardar Khan (2/21/2008)
--K. Arumugam
VISION WITH A MISSION: Rare are hockey books. Rarer are the ones with a historical bent of mind. Despite field hockey being a mass sport in South Asian region and often its lone medal earner in the Olympics, it has not generated matching number of books even in this part of the world. Construction of the past, therefore, is a big job long pending. The task on hand for any chronicler, therefore, is gigantic. More so as these nations do not have a tradition of keeping past records and document the present. So, someone has to make a beginning somewhere to set right the historical lacuna and let the ball rolling. Once some sort of bench mark is established, others can build on at least from now.

This is what exactly Sardar Khan of Pakistan attempted with fair degree of success in his first English compendium -- Glory and agony (of) Pakistan Hockey. After flipping through the 204 pages of the book, one can happily surmise that insofar as Pakistan is concerned a firm step to stem the historical lapse had at last been taken. Young Sardar Khan, who has covered all but one of the last six World Cups, deserves kudos singularly for this vision.

A PLEASING BLEND: The striking feature of the book lies in its attempt to judiciously amalgamate both literature and statistics in a reader-friendly fashion. As complier of hockey year books over a decade, this write is of the opinion that statistics cast in appropriate and innovative formats in itself constitute hockey literature. But, unfortunately, the past has been one of distressing . Statistics are perforce thrown at the end of the books as appendices and thus hardly merit any attention beyond a few fanatics of the game. Such attitude did no justice to the statistics compiler, who has to always start from the scratch in India and Pakistan in particular. As Sardar Khan has aptly narrated (page 88), even results of some tours that these countries have undertaken were kept under wraps for inexplicable reasons. So, a statistician or a historian's job is nightmarish to say the least, and thankless too.

RARE PHOTOS ARE GALORE: The book under review for once provide a beat away from the rest, and gives pride of place to the carefully constructed statistical information along side articulate write-ups. Sandwiched in between these two, are innumerable transparencies, most of which are rare and vintage in nature. Particularly impressive and eye-catching are photos of Indian goalkeeper Shankar Laxman (p65), Pakistan's first Olympics hockey team (p18), 1936 Olympics winners (p20), Rome Olympics celebration (p29), M.H. Atif with Kiddie (p136), Pakistan Army team (p179) that won the National Championship in 1954 to quote a few.

The transparencies are worth a look at it. Almost between all chapters, a colour interlude is there. They show eminent Pakistani, and sometimes the world hockey, heroes. For instance, one of the interludes figures four rare band of Pakistan players who won gold at the Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy and Junior World Cup competitions. Does not a unique achievement of this nature deserve special characterization? Such focus and depiction not only add colour to the concept but also merit to the work. Included in the category are the Pakistani players who scored more than one hundred goals, its wining captains in Olympics, World Cup, Asian Games, Asia Cup, Champions Trophy etc. This is the type of blend - statistics, history and editorial expertise, all reflective in content - that makes the book a novel venture.

PROFILES APLENTY: The book, in short, outlines origin and growth of all global tournaments and then focuses on the `glory and agony' of Pakistan in each of these tournaments. This is the strength of the content - telling the story of Pakistan hockey within the larger framework of world hockey. The structure of the book is sound. The junior World Cup story, for example, is comprehensive and informative. It gives rare insight into the evolution of this genre of competition. But such nicety and totality of information is lacking in respect of some others, especially the senior World Cup. After detailing the events of first World Cup, the story abruptly moves to the latest.

Like innumerable hockey books Sardar Khan's book too starts with a write up on the origin of hockey, but thankfully, it does not go beyond a page. Then on, a chapter on each of the major tournaments follows. Details of Pakistan Hockey Federation, its presidents and the present set up are presented with appropriate statistical support in the next. This is somewhat incongruously followed by the information on the Federation Internationale de Hockey. Just like what M.L Kapur did in his magnum opus - Romance of Hockey -- forty years ago, Sardar Khan gives a perspective glimpse into the life and times of 64 Pakistan hockey players, small and big names, from inimitable A.I.S Dara down to Muhammad Arshad, under the caption `Star Line Up'. In

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