No hickey for hockey

Somewhere on page 71 (or, more precisely, page 19 of the sports pages) of the Malabar Times which happens to be India’s smallest-selling newspaper (we know this because it is still to sell a copy) was a rare yet comforting news item. It said Ukrainian masseuse available round-the-clock at negotiable rates. Sorry,

that’s not the news item. Actually, below the advert for the Ukrainian masseuse was a startling piece of information. “India wins”, screamed the title. As I have already, meticulously, pointed out, “India wins” is as rare to find as is Barack Obama’s answer to America’s still continuing recession.
Yes, the article by a certain Mihir Thakker was startling on two counts. The very fact that India won something, won something that is, and that too without Anna Hazare resorting to a hunger strike. Secondly, and more importantly, who the hell was Mihir Thakker and what in God’s name was he talking about? I meticulously perused the article. This means, I made my mom read it aloud to me three times, in its entirety.
And this is what I gleaned: The Indian hockey team won the Inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos, China, beating Pakistan by four goals to two in the finals, via extra time. The Asian Champions Trophy is not to be confused with the Champions Trophy, that was to be held later this year in India. But because the Indian Hockey Federation has split up into 27 independent bodies (all of whom claim to run Hockey India, this in spite the whole world knowing that it’s Sharad Pawar who runs Hockey India along with Football India, Cricket India and, sometimes, er… India, India), the International Hockey Federation has cancelled India and moved the tournament to New Zealand. Why New Zealand? Primarily because New Zealand doesn’t have a hockey body. New Zealand hockey, like all New Zealand sports, is run by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
The hockey Champions Trophy should not be confused with cricket’s Champions League where the prize money that a single individual player from the worst team gets is double the amount the entire winning team will get in the hockey Champions Trophy. Of course, cricket’s Champions League should not be confused with football’s Champions League. Here, the main difference between the two champions’ leagues is that football will not have any unpronounceable Sri Lankan names and, thankfully, no Bollywood numbers. In short, the three can be summarised thus: In the football Champions League, the spectators beat each other after a match. In the cricket Champions League, they ignore each other after the match, and in the hockey Champions Trophy, there are no spectators.
Coming back to Hockey India winning the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy — this means that India is better at hockey than China, Pakistan and South Korea, but this victory taught our players a very important lesson, and that lesson is that Kazakhstan is very much a part of Asia.
The final also gave us an insight into the state of India and Pakistan relations. I mean, if you keep a group of 11 Indians and 11 Pakistanis in an open field with sticks in their hands for 70 minutes and less than five personnel are killed, it means things are looking up between the two neighbours.
Next came the euphoria. Narendra Batra, one of the Hockey India’s 27 principal secretaries (that’s principal, so don’t confuse it with principles), offered a cash award of `1 crore each to the players. This offer came with the rider “if we have the funds”. Apparently they don’t. Orissa, Maharashtra and Punjab governments followed suit. I don’t want to be cynical, but I’m told the legendary Dhyan Chand is still waiting for his purse from the government and, don’t forget, he’s been dead quite a few years.
And finally, the Indian cricket team which lost the Test series, lost the one-day series, lost the T20 series to England will come back, richer by an average of `15-20 lakhs. The winning hockey team, I’m told, may be allowed to keep their “per diem” (per day payment) of `300. As you can see from Mihir’s column in the 64th year of Indian Independence, suffice it to say, Indian sports is in good hands.

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