Fire in Babylon
A team that lorded over all others a few decades back finds itself staring into complete and utter darkness. The oft mentioned cliché by optimists referring to ‘a ray at the end of the tunnel’ seems to have ceased to exist as well. And how has the team reached such pathetic levels from its heady days is a question that everyone has an answer for but the more pertinent question of how can it be revived is answered by unconvincing, management consulting solutions.
Many legends of the game watch in helplessness as their team keeps on losing to opponents who used to tremble at the mere mention of a potential showdown. The discussion about the game is rooted mainly to how great the team was in the past, the team’s many achievements, individuals who achieved cult status and so on. Some ex-players still tend to live in those days writing off opponents even today. It is almost like the History channel show every time the sport is mentioned; a dewy eyed recollection of days gone by, heartwarming but useless.
The biggest culprit has been the Board which is in a state of complete disarray. The selection is haphazard, the public bickering between various board members have become legendary and the absence of any planning for continuing excellence has been conspicuous by its absence. Selection committees have come and gone but
There have been various egos involved with administrators winning the arguments against ‘Big name’ players by conveniently dropping them; in effect playing second string teams. The players on their side are seen to be selfish, egoistic and money minded. Its not as if the team has stopped producing some brilliant individuals but the lack of cohesive team work has hampered consistent performances. Coaches came and went, some stayed a few years some for a few days but the parting was always acrimonious.
The world has moved on and the sport itself has changed a lot. It’s not only about skills any more. Physical fitness, strategies and tactics have come to the forefront. The level of the sport even in the erstwhile minnows has gone up significantly and once in a while even the minnows have come out winners against the team. Such loss is not a surprise any more. It doesn’t even hurt the players. And that’s what hurts the most to their loyal fans.
A lot has changed since their glory days. Other games have gained prominence and they pay much better. A lot of youngsters are no more attracted to the game and hence talent which was available in abundance in the past has come down to a trickle. Most ex-players moan about the supremacy accorded to other sports and the money that accompanies them.
The team has done well once in a while and the entire world starts talking of renaissance but all such performances have been flashes in the pan. Every time the team does well (mostly due to some stellar individual performances) the loyal fans start rejoicing only to see their hopes coming crashing down in a few months by a completely pathetic show. It’s baffling to see the number of times the team has imploded on the verge of a victory or from a position of strength. From its ‘killer instinct’ days the team has moved on to the current ‘suicide instincts’ state effortlessly.
The team on its day can always cause upsets in major events but it is never the odds on favourite or even one of the favourites to win a major tournament. The tag of a ‘spoilsport’ hardly makes the fans feel proud; the same fans who had grown up winning everything on display. There were times when even 'Junior' teams got the better of them. People didn't even find the need to send full strength squads to play them in unimportant matches. That was their final humiliation.
Most empires in this history of the world have been transitory in nature and have been unable to sustain themselves due to a plethora of reasons. Movies have been made about them; this game hasn’t been an exception too.
One hopes that India regains its glory days in Hockey but one is skeptical, almost as skeptical as a Windies cricket fan.