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Mohammed Shahid: The wizard of hockey

Mohammed Shahid was an artist and the best representative of a game that was once played with wrists.

Over the last couple of decades, Indian hockey has suffered a crisis of identity. What was it supposed to be? The team flirted with different styles and coaches. Hockey affairs were chaotic, and fans confused. Back in the day, 1980s to be specific, that was not the case. Mohammed Shahid, who passed away on Wednesday, was Indian hockey. Much before the hit-long-run-hard and total hockey entered the vocabulary, there was Shahid and his dribbling. Physicality was not an attribute of his game: Shahid’s style of play was based on speed and an ability to tie the ball to his stick with rare wizardry, dodging past one defender, then another, and perhaps a couple more before he emerged the last man standing.Shahid, born in 1960, the year India gave up its stranglehold on Olympic gold, was in a sense the final hurrah of the sport in India. The teams he represented and led did not win too many titles. The Moscow Olympics gold is Shahid’s only medal of repute. He was however also part of the squad that lived through one of Indian hockey’s biggest humiliation, a 7-1 hammering by Pakistan in the finals of the 1982 Delhi Asian Games. However, this doesn’t matter to memories of Shahid. More than a player, Shahid was an artist. The fact that he scored goals or set them up by finding a careless defender’s leg was incidental. His job was to dazzle. And that he did. Perhaps some of the romance surrounding Shahid’s game comes from the fact that he played his game in the ‘80s. It’s hard to find a video of his. This means much of Shahid’s legend is from oral history.

Shahid, born in 1960, the year India gave up its stranglehold on Olympic gold, was in a sense the final hurrah of the sport in India. The teams he represented and led did not win too many titles. The Moscow Olympics gold is Shahid’s only medal of repute. He was however also part of the squad that lived through one of Indian hockey’s biggest humiliation, a 7-1 hammering by Pakistan in the finals of the 1982 Delhi Asian Games. However, this doesn’t matter to memories of Shahid. More than a player, Shahid was an artist. The fact that he scored goals or set them up by finding a careless defender’s leg was incidental. His job was to dazzle. And that he did. Perhaps some of the romance surrounding Shahid’s game comes from the fact that he played his game in the ‘80s. It’s hard to find a video of his. This means much of Shahid’s legend is from oral history.Some of the foreign coaches who subsequently came to India claimed they wanted to create a hybrid style combining the pace of European hockey and the touch play they said was the hallmark of India. What they failed to grasp was the artistry they sought was found solely in the wrists of the player from Benares and could not be replicated by

Some of the foreign coaches who subsequently came to India claimed they wanted to create a hybrid style combining the pace of European hockey and the touch play they said was the hallmark of India. What they failed to grasp was the artistry they sought was found solely in the wrists of the player from Benares and could not be replicated by diktat at a camp.

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First published on: 21-07-2016 at 12:01:08 am
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