To explain the rise and fall of any sport, pundits with pointed chins talk about the chicken-and-egg loop. The sport does not hold much popular interest because the players can’t win tournaments; and the players can’t win tournaments because there’s not much of popular interest in it. Well, that self-defeating scenario seems to be shrinking into the background for Indian hockey. By trouncing South Korea — no push-overs — and winning the Asia Cup on Sunday, India has once again proved that hockey as a spectator sport is where it’s at.
The Chennai evening saw the continuation of India’s longest winning streak since 2003, when it won the same tournament in Kuala Lumpur. And it’s this consistency that has given our dribblers on the roof the new confidence and street-cred in the larger arena of field hockey. What has also been worth noting is that the team has retained its ‘traditional’ attacking style, while building on other aspects of modern hockey-playing in today’s world stage. Fabulous runs by the likes of Prabhjot Singh and ‘endgames’ by Ignace Tirkey, not to mention by Shivendra Singh, have not only meant that India are Asia’s champions, but they have cumulatively resulted in a surge of interest and cricket-style popular support in hockey.
Perhaps, this is the right time for the nation not to treat hockey as a ‘national sport’. That ‘kiss of death’ had resulted in waning interest and powers. Now to keep the momentum going — for the sake of playing as well as watching the scintillating game.