Still glowing from one of the most enjoyable Sunday evenings I’ve had in a long time — thanks to the Indian hockey team turning the clock back, and putting on display a brand of hockey that combined the style and flair of the sub-continent with the speed and stamina of the European model [The fact that the team nailed a convincing 4-1 win over a strong Pakistan team in its debut outing was merely the icing on that cake]. And equally to the point, they played in front of a full house, with fans cheering and dancing in the aisles with all the vigor normally associated with the IPL or some such tamasha.
The glow got dissipated a bit, though, while skimming through the morning papers. The President of India has felicitated the team. So has the prime minister and sundry politicians at the state and Federal level. Several of them have announced “awards” [If the past is precedent, half or more of these awards will remain at the ‘announcement’ stage, and will never materialize in actual fact]. Even Lalit Modi was tempted to hop on the bandwagon, with an invitation to the team to be his guests at “any IPL match of their choosing”.
What irks me is the sheer opportunism implicit in such statements. Where were these people when the hockey players, not so long ago, were fighting for their basic rights? Where was this ‘support’ for Indian hockey when the ‘authorities’ running the game threatened publicly to field a B team rather than pay the players their dues? No one spoke out then; our hyperventilating news anchors, who on their Twitter streams yesterday spoke of having ‘prayed to the Dhyan Chand statue’ before the game did not, at the time, hold Suresh Kalmadi and his ilk to account for the monies that had clearly been diverted from the pockets of the players.
I hope the team continues to do well; win, lose or draw, I hope they continue to play this brand of hockey, to delight in each other’s skills the way they did yesterday, to play as a unit and remind us all why we loved this game in the first place. And I hope they have the nous to tell opportunistic politicians to go take a hike.
In passing, the Commonwealth Games is nearing. Possibly, Abhinav Bhindra will win a medal. And when he does, the President, the Prime Minister and sundry politicos will clamber on that bandwagon, too. Some TV anchor will tweet about how he prayed before the statue of William Tell. And this will be forgotten. [In related, I hope my friend Rahul Mehra pushes this for all he is worth — one thing he won’t lack is support from the mango person].
Oh — and: Happy Holi. Hope you enjoy the festivities, without the attendant hooliganism. See you guys tomorrow.