Ten years ago, buying a quality hockey stick was an impossible dream for Surinder Kaur. But that’s history for this daughter of a farmhand. Surinder’s run of success has ensured a dramatic turnaround in the family’s fortunes. Not only has the India skipper’s bank balance swelled, she has been able to get her father land, 13 acres to be precise, and the family boasts of a fancy address in a posh area of Shahbad.
“Hockey has given me everything --- name, fame, money and respect,” said Surinder.
Hers is not the town’s only rags-to-riches tale. There are several others. Situated near Ambala on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway, this nondescript town is also home to 27 women internationals.
And the man behind these success stories is coach Baldev Singh, who has worked relentlessly, with support from the Harco Cooperative Bank, which sponsors 37 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 in their nursery.
Another benefactor is the Haryana sports department’s hockey academy, which houses 17 professional players in the age group of 19-27.
“The nursery adopted by Harco and the sports department have played a huge role in giving Shahbad a pride of place on the country’s hockey map,” said Baldev. “For the girls, most of who come from underprivileged backgrounds, a daily diet allowance of Rs 100 is nothing short of a boon,” he added.
The story dates back to 1992 when Baldev returned to Shahbad after stints with the sports department. His advent signalled a turnaround in the girls’ fortunes as results started to pour in soon after.
The Harco Cooperative Bank started a nursery in September 2001 with 13 girls and since then, the number has gone up.
The success of the nursery and the sports department’s academy can be gauged from the list of star players — Surinder, Commonwealth Games medallists Jasjeet, Rajwinder and the team’s latest sensation, Rani.
On its part, the sports department provides sticks, composite ones to national players, to the 54 girls who are part of the nursery and academy. After a synthetic turf was inaugurated at the Marakandeshwar hockey stadium in 2006, the government has cleared a 40-bed hostel project in the campus.