Indian hockey has given us much joy recently, being the focal point of a flurry of chest-thumping on Facebook, Twitter. The appreciation, however, still might not be enough to bring the sport into the mainstream of public mind space.
Case in point: the lukewarm response Indian team skipper Sardar Singh and his boys received Tuesday at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on their triumphant return from Australia.
After the Asian Games triumph over Pakistan, the team took down world champions Australia 3-1 in a 4-match series Down Under.
This stunning performance is being rightly talked up as the ideal preparation for Champions Trophy (December 6-14) in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
But, why limit the joy to the insiders? Why not showcase our heroes when they return victorious. Why not let fans talk and know more about them? The women’s team scooped up a bronze in Incheon, why not talk about them?
Sure, this volley of questions is jarring, but it could be necessary. One final question — Most know their Kohlis from their Rainas, but how many of us can name five players who represent India in hockey?
Australia is among the giants of hockey and beating them at home is no mean feat. This victory also comes after the drama over national coach Terry Walsh’s resignation, which he did not carry through.
Though there are reports of a ‘rousing reception’ for the team, here is what an Indian felt when he saw the team emerge from the airport.
“I was at the airport to receive a relative, when I saw the entire team walk out. I don’t follow hockey much, but could identify Sardar Singh. It did not seem like the return of a champion team,” said Sahil Arora, a commerce student.
According to Arora, “It looked like a bunch of commoners, not heroes, arriving.”
Going berserk on social media is welcome, as is pouring accolades on the achievers, but it would truly help if these athletes get more than a Facebook post and a tweet for encouragement.
This team has qualified directly for the Rio Olympics in 2016 and is holding its own against stronger nations. Good times seem to be dawning for Indian hockey, so, why limit the accolades to the keyboard?