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Tata scores perfect 10

V Krishnaswamy | April 17, 2004

It is indeed great news for sport when a leading and highly credible group like the Tatas takes interest in sport. Especially, when everybody else is making a beeline for the over crowded cricket market.

Earlier this month, the Tatas added a lovely touch to their patronage of sports by getting together 10 former India hockey captains and honouring them with a citation and a purse of Rs 1,00,000 each.

It was not just the money but the gesture that meant a lot. These former captains met each other after a long time and to them this recognition was something they would cherish. It made up for all the years of neglect.

Pargat Singh, the only Indian captain to have led the team to two Olympics, said, "I did not even expect this till I got a letter to come to Delhi for a function. I was touched. Fortunately, the captains who came for the function are all decently placed and don't need the money, but it felt good to be remembered."

Ajitpal Singh, captain of Indian team at the 1976 Olympics and MM Somayya, captain at the 1988 Olympics echoed similar feelings, as they exchanged notes. Pargat is based in Jalandhar, Ajitpal in Delhi and Somayya in Mumbai, so an occasion to get together was indeed a memorable moment.

The Tatas this year also sponsored the India-Holland Test series in hockey to mark the birth centenary of ex-Director Tata Sons and former Indian Hockey Federation president Naval Tata. His wife, Simone, gave away the awards. The year 2004 is also the birth centenary of the group's founder, J R D Tata.

The captains who came for the function were Balbir Singh (1956), Charanjit Singh (1964), Gurbux Singh (1968), Harmik Singh (1972), Ajitpal Singh (1976), V Baskaran (1980), Zafar Iqbal (1984), M M Sommaya (1988), Pargat Singh (1992 and 1996) and Ramandeep Singh (2000).

Former Tata employees, Indian women's team coach M K Kaushik and Kulwant Arora were also felicitated. The captain of the 1960 Rome Olympics team Leslie Claudius and Leo Pinto could not attend the function.

Vice-President Corporate Affairs, Tata Services Limited, Romit Chaterji said on the occasion, "It is a matter of great pride for the Tata Group in honouring these stalwarts who have made tremendous contribution to Indian hockey and this is a humble gesture from our end to recognise and reward their commitment to the nation."

Balbir Singh, who captained India at the 1956 Olympics and represented the team in 1948 at London and 1952 at Helsinki, said such recognition to the players will go a long way in giving the sport a fillip.

"Hockey is our national game but it has been devalued in the past few years. We have the talent in the country to be on the top again. But somehow due recognition is not being given to hockey players which is one of the reasons of the decline of the sport."

The Tatas have contributed a great deal to Indian sport -- be it in tennis with the Tata Open, the only ATP Tour tennis event in India, or in football, where its Tata Football Academy has been churning out some terrific talent for the national team. They have supported India's racing star, Narain Karthikeyan and more recently have been involved with golf.

They have also announced their intention of starting an athletics academy, which will be inaugurated by Milkha Singh next month. In addition, the group has been supporting activities like mountaineering and archery.

In recent years, the TFA boys performed well in the under-17 and under-19 Asian football qualifying championships held in Kolkata and Turkmenistan, the Milk Cup in Ireland and the Ian Rush Trophy at Wales.

Buoyed by the success of the Tata Football Academy, Tata Steel Managing Director B Muthuraman, announced recently, that Tata has now decided to start an athletics academy to be inaugurated by Milkha Singh on May 29.

Sometimes, corporate sponsors need to give more than just money to support sport. They need to show that they care and the Tatas' gesture showed that in ample measure.

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