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 Travel and Lesure

March 2010
Penalty Corner
Shruthi Pendyala R
The Ananda Resort and Spa is counted among the World’s best Destination Spas by the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller

Most Indians believe that cricket is our national game! We play/watch/ discuss cricket so much that we have forgotten our official national sport, hockey. The cricket bat overshadows the hockey stick today. The Indian hockey players didn’t attend their training for the current World Cup, because they were not paid since long. But even with underpaid hockey players and overpaid cricketers, this isn’t exactly a hockey vs. cricket battle. We only ask that you understand and appreciate Indian hockey.

Shah Rukh Khan as the coach of an Indian women’s hockey team in the super-hit movie Chak De India (2007) was able to revive some recent interest in hockey. After decades of ignominy, love for hockey surged, ebbed and… slowly died again, with the movie.The Hockey Federation does not seem to bother much about letting our nation ignore our national game, making it an underappreciated national sport that no one plays today.

Yesteryears of Hockey
If you are part of the younger generation,you might think hockey is to India like sushi is to Africainsignificant! So it helps to know a little about the game to understand how it came to being our national game.

Hockey is amongst one of the oldest forms of games dating back to nearly 1200 years before the ancient games of Olympia ever started! The game in its unrefined form was played in many countries with slight variations. Most ancient civilisations believed that playing hockey would help them better their skills as a warrior, and this very thought brought about the present form of hockey in the British Isles in the 19th century. As part of their regimen, the British army played hockey. This, they brought on to India and taught the Indian troops during the British rule.

Glory in the Golden Years
India took to hockey like a fish to water; our talent was magical. India formed its first hockey club in Kolkata in 1885-86. Mumbai and Punjab soon followed. In 1928, India made its first Olympic debut with eminent player Dhyan Chand playing a mesmerising game - winning a gold medal without conceding a single goal. Another player that pops into mind when you say Indian hockey, is Balbir Singh (an interesting fact is that in three decades, we have had five national players by this name). He (the first of them all)scored five goals in a six-to-one gold medal victory over Netherlands, way back in ‘52. India has won six gold medals in the Olympic games, between 1928-56. These glories led to make hockey India’s national game (and that of Pakistan too).

Hockey Today
India lost its strong grip on hockey ever since the 1960 Rome Olympics - when Pakistan beat us to it. However, the records made by India’s yesteryear champions are so high that no country ever came even close to it, forget breaking the record. A game that brought us such fame at one time is lost today and struggling for the bare minimum. Should we not then fight for our national game and bring back its worthy title? India is made of us! We were what made the team then, and if we once possessed talent to such levels, it is possible for us to work our way back up there again!

The 2010 Hockey World Cup commenced in New Delhi last month on the 28th and will go on till the 13th of March. If you haven’t already been following hockey, it’s never too late - try and get your hands on the game tickets. Or just grab some popcorn and call your friends over to support our national game on telly. Chak De!

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