Monday, March 10, 2008

Time to Change our National Game?

Sharukh Khan in his award winning movie "Chak De India" plays a hockey coach, driving the not so famous Indian National Women's hockey team to win a gold medal and drives home the populist point "A tribute to the National Game". Makes fine entertainment value. But with our National (Men's) hockey team failing to even qualify for the Olympic event, a lot of dust has been raised about the lack of importance given to our dying national game. With all these controversies the only game to take some beating is the ever so popular Cricket.

I was in Helsinki last winter, a place so far of from India, and with such a sparse percentage of Indian population. I happened to meet a fellow Fin on a train. After some short "hellos and "How do you dos" (typical of a European stranger on a train!). He ventured to ask me "Are you from Malaysia?" I replied in negative. I told him that I was an Indian. Pat came the reply" Oh! Indians guys are so passionate about your cricket!"

I recall this incident, today again as the media and all other notable observers are suddenly back to the cricket bashing, on how too much of importance is given to cricket. The accusations range between varied aspects right from -- how cricket gets too much of media attention, on how too much money is spent on cricketers, on how government spends too little money to protect our National game.

The nationalist pride again displayed for the wrong reasons. (read the post on
This only raises several questions on my mind.

1. Why (on Earth) is Hockey our National Game?.
Yes I know about Indians being the unbeaten heroes of 6 Olympic medals, way back between 1928 to 1956. But then that’s exactly when Hockey started to be played on synthetic turfs, as against the natural turfs earlier. Let us admit that Indians have been struggling with their performance ever since. Today a distant Finnish stranger identifies an Indian through his passion for Cricket! Our identity has changed a lot ever since 1956. Today we are no more an underdog third world nation. Our identity is with rapid -growth, BPOs and Cricket! I think its time to change our National game to a game where we have just beaten the World Champions!

2. Why shouldn't there be too much publicity for cricketers?
Coca Cola is an American Company, Its an avid sponsorer for cricketing events. But so is Sahara Pariwar an Indian Company. Both these companies would rather invest their money in publicity into a game like Cricket which can attract millions of Indian viewers rather than on a game like Hockey, where it is difficult to find one Indian who can recall the names of all players on the hockey turf! Publicity and sponsorship have nothing to do with Nationalist feelings. Its about populist feelings. So it makes fine business sense for Coca Cola, to invest money in cricket in India and maybe Ice-Hockey in Sweden. After all in advertising the returns are where the audience is.

3. Why shouldn’t we treat Cricketers as Heroes?
As far as the Indian psyche goes, Indians enjoy watching, playing, criticizing and commenting cricket! They love the game. Its players provide us a lot of entertainment value. And simply by that logic, they are heroes. I happened to meet a friend of mine in Gurgaon, who told me this,
"I don’t watch hockey, because its boring! there is no charm , thrill and a feeling of strategy in hockey which is characteristic of cricket!" . Cricket is a game of long term strategy which excites Indians. Indians have never been enamored by 22 people running behind a ball (with a stick or otherwise) in a display of physical talent or immediate thinking. Indians invented Chess, again another slow game with a lot of strategic play! If the Cricketers can entertain us, why can't they be heroes?

It’s a new and a vibrant India. Should we still fight to keep the legacy in calling Hockey—A game which we don’t seem to be able to imprint in our identity—as our National Game?


Sita said...

I do not agree to you in this regard.

I feel that hockey is our national game and hence has to be promoted and supported.
Its very sad that we are forgetting our own indigenous games and we are going behind games invented by the english and the french. If we ourselves do not nourish and cherish our game that brought the world's eye on us once upto a time, then, who else will??

You are not so right by saying that cricket is more popular than hockey. There are still many people who like hockey more than cricket. Its all because of the negligence of the govt and the media that our national game has lost its glory.

We have to see the writing on the wall here. We are losing out on our tiger population in huge numbers. The tiger is our national animal and we are left only with 1400 tigers in our country now. Similarly, we have failed in our national game hockey due to lack of encouragement and support. Don't you think that its time we all rose up to counter this??

Even if hockey had got half the support, funds and publicity received by cricket, i think our national game would have survived. Its not too late now. Hope the govt will act atleast now after india's terrible defeat to britain yesterday which failed to qualify her to enter the olympics for the first time in history.

vijayan said...

Hockey is a game just like Cricket is. Tendulkar (of all people) has gone on record umpteen times that what drives him is the passion for the game. One should not see games as mere money making business.It is the passion which drives the sportsmen to games.
The game of Hockey played, as you know, has undergone a lot of change.But the basic skills attached with it is the same. The turf no doubt determines the power aspect of it. As viren Rasquinha puts it Indians basically are among the top in skill part but the turf part takes away the charm by making it a power Hockey.Hit and Run if you may call it.
Hence the initial interest in the game one develops gradually gives way to adaptability to strategies
where the catch lies since it is determined by stamina and physical aspects.Besides if you observe the rules of the game are somewhat tricky, or the interpretation part of it often crucial decisions or
blunders determine outcome.

We have to accept therefore that Indian Hockey need not always be associated with Olympics.Let us resurrect.


Hari said...

I feel it is not wining or defect will not change chasm of game apart from Cricket and Hockey other games like Football also liked by many people in India. We have not won World cup or (I don't remember ) any title out side India .But many enjoyed it .So I feel Whether it any game it has got it own charm. I feel more than promotion and support of game we(including Youngsters) should participate ply physically