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Rising from Ground Zero!

Our surfer talks of a strange meeting with Chappell, Gill and Dasmunsi.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 16:44 IST

That was a strange meeting one could ever think of.

I never thought that I would run in to Greg Chappell, KPS Gill and Priyaranjan Dasmunsi together at the Firozshah Kotla. I still couldn't fathom what were the big two of H&F doing there at the Kotla.

As we sat at the club and said cheers with 'Patiala peg', I thought it was a bit strong. But it set the right tone for our chat.

"What's the problem with Indian Hockey? Can it ever be turned around," I asked the hockey chief.

I must have turned in the wrong direction for I heard Chappell's voice.

"Nothing is really wrong with hockey. We got to identify some 30 young boys and take charge of them. Hockey, or for that matter football, is a 90-minute game. That's two 45 minutes game with a 10-minute break. We've got to train the fresh legs play at least 60 minutes each half. We must take control of the game from the word go. The trick is to make the boys believe they can do it."

I looked at Chappell and asked why was cricket so popular In India. Before he could say any thing, Gill started off.

"Cricket is popular because there's a lot of money in it. The MNCs and advertisers have spoiled the game, cricketers and the public by giving all kinds of incentives. There's so much of waste of time. They even telecast a Test match for 5 days!"

I asked Dasmunsi how he plans to make football popular, and get India out of the present ranking of 118 (or is it 125?), to some thing more decent.

Before Dasmunsi could clear his throat, Greg had started off. In fact, he continued where he had left off, earlier.

"Having a goal is the main thing in football! Where we are now, doesn't matter - 100, 200, or whatever. I would give the boys a goal to work on - to reach the top in Asia in 18 months time. Take on the European clubs in 36 months time. I would get Baichung Bhutia to play in all positions. He would score his goals, but if we want him to defend, he will do so. Ditto for Dileep Tirkey too in hockey (ask Irfan Pathan!).

"I don't know any other name in Indian football or hockey! If anybody fakes injury, skips training, out he goes. There's one more thing. Money. If my boys can beat the daylights out of China and Korea, I can assure you the day we play Manchester United, big business will come searching for them to sign up. ESPN and Star Sports would want to telecast India's hockey match with Holland, if we have already taken Germany and Australia to the cleaners. These boys will not be second to cricket stars. My boys won't stay in 3rd grade hotel and travel 2nd class train and all that crap!"

When we ordered third round of drinks, I wasn't sure what I was asking and who was replying!

I asked Chappell whether BCCI supported him in his work.

I thought Dasmunsi would butt in, and sure enough, he did.

"There's too much politics in cricket. Ministers have become chiefs of the board and there's alot of political pressure from everywhere. Imagine, Rs 3,300 crores for TV, Radio rights! That kind of filthy money is unheard of anywhere in any field and is certainly not good for sports. No coach can get any support from politicians, I tell you! For us, the entire money comes from the government, which doles out Rs 500 crores for all the sports put together. We get our share from that quota."

"Do you think football and hockey can ever move up at all?" I managed to ask both Gill and Dasmunsi who are kind of life-presidents of H&F.

When they were tongue-tied and groping for words, I heard Chappell's voice…

"Give me 36 months. I will straighten out things and get India in to Top 3 in hockey and top 10 in football… To me and the boys having a goal is what matters. Rest will come automatically with our work ethics…" Chappell banged the table hard for emphasis.

I woke up when I heard a sound - something had fallen off my hand.

My wife Maya was shouting… "You have dropped the remote… Why did you shout 'goal' during presentation when Dhoni was declared 'Man of the match' in Karachi?"

ER Ramachandran isa regular surfer and is based in Mysore. He can be reachedaterram@rediffmail.com. All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfers and do not necessarily represent those of HindustanTimes.com.