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'Indian hockey needs to start from scratch'
May 26, 2008 13:13 IST
India must start from scratch if they are to regain former hockey glory, but it will be at least a decade before they can once again compete with the world's best, said former captain Dhanraj Pillay.
Eight-times Olympic champions India have already been eliminated from the 2008 Beijing tournament, marking the first time they will miss the Summer Games since first sending a squad in 1928.
"We have to start from A, B, C, D now. It will take at least 10 years to build a champion team," Pillay, who played in four Olympics [Images] from 1992, told Reuters in an interview.
Pillay, the face of Indian hockey for over a decade and who was recently appointed a national selector, said India should use the Olympic disappointment to spur a revival.
"As we near the month of August it will hurt former and current players. We should then urge past players to work together for the benefit of Indian hockey," he added.
"They should get involved at the grassroots level, especially in the hunt for talent in remote, rural areas."
India's Olympic Association (IOA) and the sports ministry needed to take a more active role and make it worthwhile for the players to be involved, he said.
India's hockey federation (IHF) had been blamed for the downturn in the country's hockey fortunes. A shift in power to an ad hoc committee last month is being seen as a blessing after the federation was suspended by the IOA on charges of corruption.
Indian hockey has been in decline since the 1970s, coinciding with the game's switch to artificial turf with more emphasis on power, speed and accuracy than deft stickwork.
Cricket became a national obsession following India's surprise victory in the 1983 World Cup, while interest in other sports dwindled due to a lack of success at international level.
"We need a public relations wing and a marketing team to help expand the sport," said Pillay.
"Corporate interest needs to be generated to support hockey, but for that we have to show results. We will have to start preparing for the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games (both in India in 2010) and 2012 London [Images] Olympics."
Hockey is still widely considered the country's national sport and the International Hockey Federation proposed a special project last year to promote Indian hockey.
"Unless grassroots level is nurtured India will not find talented players," Pillay.
"The problem is not just the lack of quality players and shortage of infrastructure, now even quantity is absent as parents are encouraging children to take up other sports."