Leo Pinto, the Indian hockey team's goalkeeper at the first post-war Olympic Games in London in 1948, described the country's failure to qualify for the mega event for the first time in 80 years as "shocking" and "my saddest day".
Pinto, at 94 one of the oldest living Olympians in India, said he never expected in his lifetime that the country would one day not be part of an Olympic Games, though he agreed that one cannot forever expect dominance in the sport in which the nation won six straight Olympic golds from 1928 to 1956.
"It was shocking that India are out of the Olympics completely. It's my saddest day in the sport," Pinto said here today.
"Of course, I am aware that other teams have improved tremendously since our times when there were several players fighting for each position and only the best made it. The rules of the game have also changed drastically and there is also the fact that there are not enough artificial turfs in India to practise on," he said.
Pinto said there was a vast difference between playing on natural turf and on artificial grass.
"On natural turf, you can dribble, but on the water-logged astroturf you have to push the ball. You need more power in the wrists as well as in the legs for running on the heavy turf (sprinkled with water)," he said.
"Indian hockey is in doldrums," was his parting shot.