A veteran of four consecutive Olympics, legendary Leslie Claudius, bemoaned the disastrous display of the Indian hockey team in the London Olympics where it touched its nadir and finished last, and said the national game is "dead".
"It was in London where it all began for me (in the 1948 Olympics). Now, everything is over at the same place. It can't get worse. Our hockey is dead," Claudius said.
The 85-year-old had followed all the matches of the Indian team at London Games, staying glued to his television even at the odd-hours only to be left heartbroken by the former champions' worst ever Olympic campaign.
"It's a disgrace. Either they lack in dedication or they don't deserve to represent India. It's really sad that we not only lost but could not do anything. The least we wanted was for them to win a match," he said.
Claudius is one of the five surviving members (Keshav Dutt, Grahanandan Singh, Jaswant Singh Rajput and Balbir Singh Senior) of the 1948 squad that had won the gold in London.
One of the finest right-halves, the former captain was also part of next three Olympics that won two gold and one silver, a record only matched by compatriot Udham Singh.
"Oh, those were the days... We played with heart. With KD Singh (Babu) we had the best team in 1952 at Helsinki. We were invincible," he recalled.
In a total humiliation, eight-time Olympic champions India finished at the bottom of the 12-team competition, suffering an unprecedented washout after being beaten 2-3 by South Africa in a classification match at the Games on Saturday.
The sorry saga of six successive defeats, thus, drew curtains to India's painful journey in the London Games.
"But we never dreamt that Indian hockey would reach such a low. It's painful and difficult to see the standard of our hockey now," Claudius said.
"They had shown a bit of intent in their opener against The Netherlands but after going 2-3 down they lost their confidence gradually," he added.
Claudius said India had not coped up with times as the world hockey had gone way ahead with the arrival of artificial turf.
"Playing on artificial turf is different cup of tea altogether. It's not there in every part of India. Without blaming anybody or the coach, we must make sure that we provide our players the artificial turf. I don't want to blame the coach or anybody. To do well, they have to conquer the style of play on artificial turf."