September 3, 2021 2:45:33 pm
The participation of India’s hockey teams in next year’s Commonwealth Games is ‘doubtful’, the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Narinder Batra has said. This is to make sure the teams are ‘fresh’ for the 2022 Asian Games, he added, which will be held a little more than a month after the CWG and double up as Olympic qualifiers for hockey.
Following a meeting with Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) director-general Sandip Pradhan on Friday, to chart out plans for the 2022 Asian Games and 2024 Olympics, Batra said the decision on hockey teams’ participation was based on his ‘preliminary discussions’ with Hockey India.
Hockey India did not comment when asked for an update from their side.
“The final decision has to be taken jointly by Hockey India management and coaches. If the teams play in the CWG, then the players will have to prepare accordingly and peak there. Then you can’t expect them to peak again in Asian Games, which is a qualification for the Olympics,” Batra said. “That’s why it is doubtful for them to compete in the CWG. Moreover, there are no world ranking points on offer.”
The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8. The Asian Games will begin in Hangzhou, China, on September 10. The Asian Games gold medalists also win an Olympic berth. In 2018, both Indian teams finished fourth at the Gold Coast CWG. At the Asian Games they were unable to seal the Olympic spot after the men’s team won a bronze and women returned with a silver medal.
Both teams had to go through a tricky playoff format to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, where they produced remarkable performances – while the men’s team won the bronze medal, the women narrowly missed out and finished fourth.
Asked if there was a possibility to send a ‘B’ team or a junior team for the Birmingham Games, Batra said that option was not brought to his notice so far. “Whenever you go to a tournament, you go to win not to finish fifth, sixth, seventh. The level our men and women’s team have reached, if they don’t finish in top three then it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics are not meant for exposure. We go there to win and if we can’t do that, why waste country’s money unnecessarily.”
Hockey India has time until early next year to make a final decision on the issue. If they indeed decide to not send the teams to the CWG, it will significantly reduce India’s contingent size. In Gold Coast, India had sent 216 athletes in 15 sports and won 66 medals, including 26 gold, and 20 silver and bronze each.
India has already been at the loggerheads with the 2022 CWG organisers after they axed shooting and archery, the two sports in which India have won several medals in CWG, from their programme. While it was then decided to conduct these two events in Chandigarh, the Commonwealth Games Federation pulled the plug on it citing the ‘uncertainty created by the ongoing global pandemic.’
Batra said all these factors will have an impact on India’s medal count in the Birmingham CWG. “If the hockey teams do not go, and add to that the fact that shooting and archery are not a part of the CWG, it would result in around 62 athletes fewer than the 2018 contingent. The women’s cricket team might get added to it but still the difference will remain,” Batra said. “This will also be proportionately visible on the medals tally.”
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