Even as the India hockey team under Bharat Chhetri is gearing up for the Olympic Qualifiers, beginning at the National Stadium from February 18, the World Series Hockey (WSH), it seems, is on the mind of the squad.
A joint venture between the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports, the WSH kicks off on February 29, three days after the Olympic Qualifiers end. Earlier, it was slated to begin from December 17 but was postponed as the dates were clashing with the Olympic Qualifiers' preparatory camp.
The players are tightlipped about their participation despite signing the contracts, saying their focus right now is to win a ticket to the London Games. “We will think of the WSH later,” said a team member.
Hockey India (HI) secretary-general Narinder Batra too is keeping his cards close to his chest. “I cannot comment on the issue. There are several court cases going on,” he said.
HI has prepared the timetable in such a way that the WSH doesn’t fit into its schedule. Immediately after the Qualifiers, the national squad will get a two-week break before the next phase of training starts.
On the participation of key national players, IHF secretary-general, Ashok Mathur, said, “Almost all the players have signed up to play in the WSH. There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind about the participation of top players,” he said.
And, with the Delhi High Court on Monday clearing the way for the participation of players in the league, the IHF is in a happy frame of mind.
A bench of acting Chief Justice AK Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw disposed of a petition by Joachim Carvalho, a former player and coach, which said that HI be restrained from threatening players that they would not be considered for national duty if they participated in the WSH.
The Bench said, “Domestic events can be arranged in such a manner that it does not come in conflict with preparatory camps or the period when the international events are going to be held.” The court said money flow in the game was “necessary” to “redeem” the past glory of hockey and ways and means can be found to facilitate participation of players in the WSH.
It ruled that the HI regulations restraining players’ participation in the WSH would only apply in respect of commitments made after March 31, 2011.