Quite often,players unwittingly,and unfortunately,become pawns when two factions are locked in a power struggle to govern a sport. So it didnt come as a surprise when Hockey India (HI) slapped a ban on the players who took part in the World Series Hockey (WSH),a tournament conducted by its rival Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).
However,in a rare gesture,HI has picked nine rebels for the junior World Cup preparatory camp. While the inclusion of these skilful youngsters enhances the quality of the junior team,it casts a long shadow on the future of WSH.
The unofficial word is,like the ill-fated Indian Cricket League,WSH may not take place again. It is learnt that the franchisees are struggling to just stay afloat.
In fact,the huge costs involved in managing the teams forced the organisers to reduce the number of teams from eight in the first season to seven for the second. The players are yet to receive full payment and its not just they who are turning their backs on the tournament. A few key officials from co-organisers Nimbus Sport,including COO Yannick Colaco,have quit as well.
Nimbus and IHF are waiting for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to take a final call on the governing body in the country before deciding on the future of WSH. Unfortunately for them,the FIH has made its allegiance clear by publicly backing HI.
Just like with the ICL,the WSH triggered a few good changes in Indian hockey; not to forget it compelled Hockey India to start a league (HIL) of its own. Crucially,it acted as a springboard for young players to make an impression on the big stage. Talented players like Affan Yousuf,Amir Khan and Lalit Upadhyay,among many others,stood out with their performances amidst players of international repute.
Although successful,the HIL did not have the emergence of fresh faces those who could immediately be inducted into the national team programme the way WSH did. A reason enough for their rebels to be reintroduced into the national system.
Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai. firstname.lastname@example.org