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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Other Sport

Marriage ends hockey dreams of veteran women players from Jharkhand
Prabhash C Jha/Anbwesh Roy Choudhury, Hindustan Times
Ranchi, July 22, 2014
First Published: 21:31 IST(22/7/2014)
Last Updated: 21:34 IST(22/7/2014)

When Bollywood gave the world a heart-warming story on women's hockey in 'Chak de India', it was just holding up a mirror to nature.

For, no Indian team to an international tournament could be complete without a player from Jharkhand.

But in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, starting from July 23, the unbelievable has come true -- for the first time since 1983, no women player from Jharkhand is part of the national squad.

Even the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, based on the team's performance in the 2002 CWG, had two Jharkhand players: Rani Kispotta and Soimoi Kerketta.

The reason: most senior players, with an international history, have "lost fitness" after marriage and were not selected for the national CWG team. 

Mid-field player, Kanti Ba, 29 -- a part of the 2006 CWG, Melbourne and 2010 Asian Games in China – blamed her marriage in 2012 for her lack of fitness.

"My physical fitness and my career have all but ended after marriage," said Kanti, a mother of one, who failed to qualify for the Glasgow squad. 

Out of the 15-member senior women hockey team, 10 have tied the nuptial knot. The only spinster Asunta Lakra, who was part of Olympic 2012, CWG 2006 and 2010 squads, is riddled with injuries. 

30-year-old Masira Surin, a mid-fielder in the 2006 CWG, admitted that "balancing the household and career is not easy".

Such has been the dominance of the team that in several international matches, as many as seven Jharkhand players made up the Indian team.

For officials here the setback has come as shock.

National selector and secretary of Hockey Jharkhand, Savitri Purty had little words to describe the sport's low in Jharkhand.

"After marriage a women's body does change. To get back the physical fitness is difficult," said Purty, the first women hockey player in the Indian team, who played from 1983-1990. 

For the former Olympian and coach Sylvanus Dungdung, not having a player in the CWG squad was the most depressing moment in his career.

"This is unexpected. We have never missed a single international event. But I still believe we can pull up our socks," said Dungdung.

Jharkhand's association with hockey goes back to the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam when the first Indian men's team won the gold medal under the captaincy of Jaipal Singh Munda.

The tribal population of central India found a role-model in Munda who went on to actively promote the sport among his brethren.

Athletically-built with full of stamina, the tribals took to the game with great enthusiasm, honing their skills with hockey sticks made of bamboo.

After Munda, the male hockey player who shot to fame was Dung Dung. Among the younger generation junior Indian hockey goalkeeper Bigan Soy shot to fame with a brilliant save in the 2013 Junior World Cup in Germany. India won bronze.

For the tribals of the state, hockey also offered a passage out of poverty for the boys and an escape from their daily drudgery to the girls.

"Tribal women have athletic body structures due to long kilometres of walking for their daily needs. The game also proved an escape for us from our hardship. I started playing with a bamboo hockey stick and slippers," Purty added.


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