Hockey India’s plan to scout for talent from among the participating teams in the ongoing senior women’s national championship in Lucknow may hit a roadblock as most of the state units have randomly picked teams, and not followed the exercise of conducting competitions to select players.
If defending champions Railways, whose key players will be in the national team for the World Hockey League (Round 3), can move into the national championship final effortlessly, it gives you an idea of the sad state of affairs of women’s hockey in the country.
Several non-functional state units, perhaps, are the reason for potential players not getting the opportunity to showcase their talent in national meets. Inefficiency has also resulted in funds released by the federation not being properly utilised by the units. Delhi is one such unit, which has been under-performing for the last three years. Hockey, in fact, is being managed by an ad-hoc body, which has Raj Chopra as its president and Sudarshan Pathak as secretary. The state unit picked up the probables without even conducting a competition. Here, too, only a handful of girls — 25 — came for the trials in the junior and senior categories.
“We will conduct the state meet later,” was Pathak’s reply.
Little wonder, Delhi failed to go beyond the preliminary stage in Lucknow.
Delhi notched up an 8-0 win over Kerala, another non-functional unit, but lost to Punjab 0-7, in their second league match.
HI secretary-general, Narinder Batra, admitted to the flaws in the functioning of the state units, but said the number of such ‘sick’ units was very low. “We are aware of the shortcoming, but we are trying to improve the system.”
A look at the results in pool matches (see box) shows that, barring a few matches almost all the encounters were one-sided.
Some time back, the federation had given a grant of R5 lakh to each state unit to develop the sport at the grassroots level, but Delhi couldn’t utilise the funds properly. “We have only spent half the amount,” said Pathak, who is also one of the joint secretaries in the federation.
Olympian Ajit Pal Singh was caustic in his comment. “Delhi has a history of being active only on paper.”