Now, hockey joins the ‘100-crore’ club | india | Hindustan Times
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Now, hockey joins the ‘100-crore’ club

Even as field hockey changed turfs, the young sportspersons of the country, gunning in equal measure for glory and bounty, opted to stay put on nature's green, Kaushik Chatterji reports.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2013 01:21 IST
Kaushik Chatterji

Even as field hockey changed turfs, the young sportspersons of the country, gunning in equal measure for glory and bounty, opted to stay put on nature's green. Cricket emerged as a viable means of earning a sustained livelihood; golf, an alternative to the gentleman's game.

No region has illustrated this paradigm shift better than the land of five rivers. From being the cradle of Indian hockey during the sport’s heyday, Punjab and its former constituents have not just thrown up a slew of international cricketers — its capital, Chandigarh, has acquired the moniker of being the nursery of Indian golf.

But with the Hockey India League (HIL), the de facto national sport of India is shaping up to make the cut.

It's different

Coming as it does after the Premier Hockey League (PHL) and last year's World Series Hockey (WSH), cynics might be tempted to say, 'another year, another league'. But HIL promises to be different, and not without good reason. The math is very straightforward - according to sources, each of the league's five franchises will be spending approximately R12 crore. Add to that the sponsors' contributions — the announcement of title sponsors Hero seemed as a New Year bonus for the league — and it comes as little surprise that Narinder Batra is pleased as punch.

"In its very first year, HIL has become a 100-crore property," says the Hockey India secretary-general, who is also the chairman of HIL. "Never before has such a huge amount been associated with Indian hockey."

Reviving hockey

Of course, all that moolah only amounts to something if it is used constructively, and not just at the top level. Batra claims it will be. "Every single penny will be pumped back into the game, be it for players, facilities or as prize money for tournaments," he says, stressing upon the grants given by HI to the state bodies for "conducting school-level tournaments for both boys and girls in the districts. The amount, which was R1.5 crore in 2012, will go up in the coming years."

Another, more obvious, class of beneficiaries is the players themselves. "In European leagues, players get anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 euros for six months’ worth of effort,” says Batra. “So, that they are earning lakhs for a month's work is an attractive proposition.”

Some, of course, are earning more than a few lakhs. Brand ambassador of the league as well as the marquee player of the Delhi-based franchise, Sardar Singh, is pocketing cheques totaling over a crore. Then again, he is a certified star, something that Indian hockey has too few of. Perhaps HIL can change that.

Not just riches

Another welcome change is the importance being given to cities that are neither metros nor traditional power centres. While PHL and WSH did feature teams from Rourkela and Bhopal, respectively, HIL has gone a step further — while Kanpur will play host to UP’s home matches, the business end of the tournament will be conducted in Ranchi.

With inputs from Navneet Singh