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Take Chappell's cue to improve performance, Hockey legend tells IHF

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Aug 27 (UNI) 'Dada' Dhayan Chand's mention still lights up his face as Olympic Gold medallist Harbinder Singh recalls the golden days of Indian hockey but the Arjuna Awardee cannot hide his disappointment at the current state of the game either and says the administrators can take a cue from Greg Chappell to improve the level of competition in the national sport.

''There is no competition among the players. At our times there used to be four-five contenders for every position but that has changed now. We have players who are assured of their position and that is affecting the performance,'' Harbinder told UNI on the sidelines of a function held to commemorate Indian's hockey gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

''Look what Chappell has done in cricket. The Indians are doing pretty well these days because the level of competition within the team has gone up. Even Sachin Tendulkar is not assured of his place.

Or for that matter look at VVS Laxman who is a good player but has to fight for a place in the ODI team. This kind of competition improves performance,'' he said.

Harbinder, who played under Dhyan Chand in the 60s and was a part of the Gold medal winning team in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, said the Stick Wizard was hockey's Pele and it is high time that the nation stood up to applaud one of its greatest sporting heroes ever.

''Dada Dhyan Chand was a great man. He was a simple person and if he had used his talent to earn money he would have been a rich man.

But he bore all the hardships because of his self-less attitude towards the country and hockey,'' he said.

''He is to hockey what Pele is to football and I am proud to have played under him,'' he said.

Although he steered clear of queries related to the Indian Hockey Federation's working, Harbinder admitted that the IHF took more interest in the game during his days with the team.

''The federation used to take a lot of interest in the game. The President used to regularly visit the training camps and that had a positive impact. Though administration wise nothing has changed but still I would say in our days the competition was better,'' he recalled.

When asked about specific reasons for the game's decline, the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games Gold medallist said apart from the lack of competition the failure to get big teams to play in India was also contributing to the poor performance.

''At the Ambedkar Stadium where they now play football, we used to play international hockey Tests and lots of foreign teams used to come to play the Indians. This helped in creating a large pool of players in different parts of the country,'' he said.

The Arjuna awardee, who was adjudged the best centre forward in the 1968 Mexico Olympics in which India won the Bronze medal, said the only way to make hockey popular again was to start winning again.

''In our days hockey was a popular sport because we used to win but the popularity of the game has gone down due to the poor performance of the current teams. If they start winning today the spectators will return to the game,'' he said.


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