For a long while, Indian hockey has been reduced to a sport living on its past glory. Tales about the exploits of Dhyan Chand, Pargat Singh, Mohammad Shahid and Dhanraj Pillay have sustained the feeble pulse of hockey in India, which once dominated the world scene by winning eight Olympic gold medals.
Having such a glorious history can at times be inspirational for there are multiple heroes for aspiring hockey players to look up to. But unfortunately, the standard of our national game has declined steadily over the years, and the one-time giant has been banished to the distant borders of hockey world -- often drawing comforts from the sporadic success at the international level. The Indian junior girls offered such a crumb of comfort on Sunday, pipping Britain 3-2 on penalties to grab bronze medal in the Junior World Cup at Monchengladbach, Germany.
The bronze-winning effort is India’s finest performance ever in the marquee event, and it offers a lot of fodder for thought. It underscores the fact that India still has talent at grassroot levels and now it is up to the authorities to nourish it in the proper way. They have the responsibility to ensure that this victory will not go down as an isolated spark as it had happened many times in the past. Players like Rani Rampal and Sushila Chanu have brilliant future, and what they need is the right backing from the authorities. Over the years personal egos, tyrannical approach to administration and graft at all levels have eaten into the vitals of Indian hockey, and this triumph should prompt the bigwigs to rise above petty politics and join hands for the betterment of the sport in our country.
Certainly the achievement of this band of young players will be feted by many around the country, and the players also have every right to soak in the adulation. After all, an achievement of this nature does not come often at the highest level. But they need to remember that winning the bronze medal is a just a start, and there are bigger challenges awaiting them as their careers. They need to keep their feet planted on the ground and concentrate on sharpening their skills to face some world-class opponents and blazing a new path for the sport.