Thursday, January 7, 2010

India struggle on and off pitch

Comment by Jugjet Singh

INDIA last won the hockey World Cup in Malaysia, and the magical year was 1975, when Malaysia also had a super outing and finished fourth.
But both the countries have been struggling to find their footing in the World Cup, with India qualifying as the host nation, while Malaysia failed in their attempt in Invercargill, New Zealand.
India will host 11 countries from Feb 28-March 13, and as added spice, the hosts have chosen to battle arch-rivals Pakistan in the first day itself.
India, Pakistan, Australia, England, South Africa and Spain are in Group B. In Group A are Argentina, Canada, Germany, South Koreaa, Netherlands and New Zealand.
A win in the explosive India-Pakistan battle is more for moral than anything else, as both the Asian sides will find it difficult to reach the semi-finals stage, as Australia are the hot favourites for one berth from Group B, while England and Spain will be the teams to beat for the other spot.
That is, if the hosts can get their house and their players in order in two months time.
The India players, training at a camp in Balewadi, have reportedly said that they will hang their sticks from Jan 8, if Hockey India does not give them the cash they were promised after winning a bronze at the Champions Challenge tournament in Argentina last month.
Wait, that is the least of the teething problems faced by India in the run up to hockey's biggest sporting event.
Security fears have been voiced by many countries since India were named as hosts, and with Pakistan and India playing the opening match, security will have to be ultra-tight to convince other nations to play there.
New Zealand, who beat Malaysia 2-1 to qualify for the World Cup, will assess the situatiuon before making a commitment, and then, they will use the World Cup as a guinea pig to decide if they will field a team for the October Commonwealth Games, also to be held in New Delhi.
NZ Olympic Council president Mike Stanley confirmed New Zealand would also be watching the World Cup closely and have asked Black Sticks officials to provide a comprehensive post-tournament report.
"That will be fed into our decision-making process, in regards to how we manage our athletes at the Games," Stanley told Sunday News.
"If any issues come out of it they¡ll go back into the process and we¡ll respond accordingly.
"The message from us is that security is very important. Our position is that we¡re planning to be at the Games but we¡re constantly monitoring the situation through various agencies and if more information comes to light, we¡ll reassess."
England are the other team that has voiced its concern over security.
And the security concern will only be a concern, if Hockey India can get their elections off the ground on Jan 29.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) are the ad-hoc masters right now, and the among the conditions set by the International Hockey Federation to enable India to host the tournament is to have fair elections.
However, voting rights is now a big issue, with many states claiming IOA have left them out in the cold from the votiong process.
Punjab, where the majority of the 1975 winning players came from, are saying that they have been left out of the voting process and will fight tooth-and-nail to have the ballot papers in theit hands.
Looks like the tournament has already started for India, and the score is 3-0 against them hosting at the half-time stage.